Data computation and storage has become a major bottleneck in compute processing. According to a team of 51 senior NewtonX IoT executives, sending five terabytes of data through the cloud with a 100MB connection still takes almost five days without encryption, which is longer than it would take to send a hard drive via snail mail. This problem will only worsen as time goes on: annual data generated is expected to grow from 40 zettabytes in 2019 to 175 zettabytes in 2025, even as expectations for processing power also increase. Because of this, investors and IoT producers (including autonomous vehicle manufacturers) have increasingly turned to edge computing as a potential solution.
Self-Driving Cars, IoT devices, and Smart Cities: Why We Need Edge Computing
NewtonX experts estimated that a self-driving car collects and processes 5TB of data per day and sends 50GB per day to the cloud. Self-driving cars and other IoT products require extremely rapid processing, but also produce record amounts of real-time data. A back and forth for even the simplest of calculations in a data center can take anywhere from 50ms to 100ms, which doesn’t meet the requirement for certain computing workloads such as AR/VR and self-driving cars. Edge computing can subsidize the cloud with real-time processing at the edge of networks. Essentially, the technology consists of placing processing resources near the data source in order to reduce the latency that occurs when data is transferred back and forth from the cloud.
Of the 51 senior IoT executives that NewtonX surveyed, 53% reported that edge computing came up more than five times in 2018 discussions with customers. This is up 14% from last year. IoT users in fields as varied as telemedicine, telecommunications, and autonomous vehicles are looking to the edge for solutions.
Edge Computing in 2019: How Far We’ve Come and How Far We Still Have To Go
The biggest players in the edge computing market include Microsoft, Huawei, IBM, AWS, Cisco, Google, AT&T, Oracle, and Siemens. These edge computing leaders each come with different areas of expertise: the public cloud, networking, software, automation and telecommunications. The U.S. currently dominates the global edge computing market, with only Huawei, which is investing in edge for 5G solutions, acting as a major competitor. Of these tech giants, Microsoft is the leading edge computing provider, with its Azure Edge IoT, a hybrid cloud and IoT solution. Since 2010, the company has filed almost 300 patents in the edge computing space, mainly in the area of intelligence streaming and surveillance. Microsoft has also partnered with Volkswagon to provide edge solutions for autonomous vehicles.
Microsoft’s biggest competition comes from IBM, which has created a networking technology for devices to communicate with each other without wireless connectivity. IBM has partnered with The Weather Company already to allow for live weather alerts even without internet connectivity.
In addition to the tech giants, several startups are making major moves in the space, including Vapor IO (which we previously wrote about here) and Nebbiolo Technologies.
The biggest barrier to edge computing adoption is currently security. As an expert pointed out in our last article on the subject, securing trillions of devices that are operating without the knowledge of a centralized system will be a massive challenge for the future of edge. This challenge will also give a strong advantage to tech giants such as Microsoft and IBM, which already have strong security infrastructures.