What edge computing means for the data centre, and for IoT
Thu 8 Sep 2016
It is evident that the Internet of Things (IoT) will create many new opportunities for companies while improving efficiencies and delivering long-term business benefits. The technology is pegged to become the critical interface between brands and their customers.
A recent survey by Schneider Electric, The Internet of Things (IoT) 2020 Business Report, found that more than 2,500 business decision-makers indicated that IoT would have a major impact on the future direction of their business.
But what is driving the IoT? How will it impact the data centre industry and drive change for business and consumers alike? The answer is simple and affects us all, through the propagation and analysis of our data.
According to the Global research analyst IDC, by 2018 up to 40 percent of IoT-created data will be stored, processed and analysed at the edge of the network. Data latency is becoming increasingly impactful to business success and as a result, edge computing will become a common way to avoid data transmission delays.
Edge computing brings together bandwidth-intensive content and latency-sensitive applications, placing them closer to the user or data source. It puts data acquisition and control functions, the storage of high bandwidth content, and applications closer to the customer and it is inserted into a logical end point of an internet or secured private network.
As an industry, we are already seeing the introduction of edge applications in retail and industrial applications, which means the requirement for edge computing will grow significantly as the IoT continues to expand further into commercial applications.
In retail, for example, the EPOS system and introduction of bar codes with the accompanying scanners used to verify customer payments via secure data networks, has driven the shopping experience forward.
On the whole, consumer spending is up, and it’s no wonder. Retailers use real-time inventory control computers and smart devices to enable automated ordering and keep stock at optimal levels, which means opportunities to buy from any location, at any time, are at an all-time high – even if the product you desire is not available at that particular moment.
By 2020 the analyst firm Gartner predicts there will be 25 billion smart products connected to the internet, including mobile devices, tablets, smart appliances, sensors and industrial machines.
63% of surveyed organisations plan to leverage the IoT to better analyse customer behaviour and improve their service levels.
Take a moment to think about your own experience as a shopper or consumer – the provision of technology such as contactless payments, increase in online retail outlets and purchasing from smart devices requires real-time processing data or the secure transmission of information from one source to another.
And that purchase has a precise journey with specific ‘digital actions’, which can be described as a series of ‘connected’ messages:
- You browse the shop and select your goods. Information is collected about the store, the pages and the products you visited.
- The goods are added to your basket, which generates data or ‘buyer information’ about your preferred choices.
- You pay, real-time data is processed and informational messages are transmitted from you to your bank, approved and then relayed back to the retail outlet.
- You check out, the items are processed, sending a message to update stock levels and then shipped to a specific location, sending a sensory message with delivery address and generating tracking details.
- The final component is that data is then stored about the ‘things’ you buy, which can be used at a later date to provide you, the consumer, with opportunities to purchase additional items or influence your choices.
Every ‘digital action’ will send a series of messages through a secure localised network and in return, provide a specific amount of data about you as a consumer.
In short, the IoT has enabled retail to become a smarter, more productive, profitable operation which is always on, and innovation at every level has made it possible to harness the power and possibilities of the IoT revolution in incremental steps: From apps, analytics and services to the cloud and connected devices.
According to the 2020 IoT Business report, 63% of surveyed organisations plan to leverage the IoT to better analyse customer behaviour and improve their service levels to take the customer experience to new levels. Yet again, our consumer actions or ‘buying’ data becomes key to this process and access to data — including previously untapped and highly granular data analysis — combined with the ability to translate it into actionable insights, has become the hallmark of the IoT.
Role of the edge data centre
But where does the data centre fit into this process? How does the underlying infrastructure impact on service levels and consumer traffic?
As data continues to grow at an exponential rate, the IoT will drive data centre professionals to consider how best to protect their connection to the cloud, which may be better placed to meet specific processing or purchasing requirements, while reducing latency to achieve specific service related performance levels.
However, the growth of data is actually causing major bandwidth concerns for organisations as they struggle to understand where and how to best manage their data, while also allowing it to be processed and analysed in real time.
Edge computing will undoubtedly solve the latency challenges by moving data closer to the end user, enabling companies to take better advantage of immediate opportunities while leveraging cloud computing architectures. This provides greater availability and access to data – therefore resulting in a better end-user experience and reduction in costs.
But still, the question remains. As computing technology advances and the IoT proliferates, should we begin to wonder what else is set for change as the world and our experiences, become ever more digitised?