Edge computing use cases
There are as many different edge use cases as there are users – everyone’s arrangement will be different – but several industries have been particularly at the forefront of edge computing. Manufacturers and heavy industry use edge hardware as an enabler for delay-intolerant applications, keeping the processing power for things like automated coordination of heavy machinery on a factory floor close to where it’s needed. The edge also provides a way for those companies to integrate IoT applications like predictive maintenance close to the machines. Similarly, agricultural users can use edge computing as a collection layer for data from a wide range of connected devices, including soil and temperature sensors, combines and tractors, and more. (Read more about IoT on the farm: Drones and sensors for better yields)
The hardware required for different types of deployment will differ substantially. Industrial users, for example, will put a premium on reliability and low-latency, requiring ruggedized edge nodes that can operate in the harsh environment of a factory floor, and dedicated communication links (private 5G, dedicated Wi-Fi networks or even wired connections) to achieve their goals. Connected agriculture users, by contrast, will still require a rugged edge device to cope with outdoor deployment, but the connectivity piece could look quite different – low-latency might still be a requirement for coordinating the movement of heavy equipment, but environmental sensors are likely to have both higher range and lower data requirements – an LP-WAN connection, Sigfox or the like could be the best choice there.
Other use cases present different challenges entirely. Retailers can use edge nodes as an in-store clearinghouse for a host of different functionality, tying point-of-sale data together with targeted promotions, tracking foot traffic, and more for a unified store management application. The connectivity piece here could be simple – in-house Wi-Fi for every device – or more complex, with Bluetooth or other low-power connectivity servicing traffic tracking and promotional services, and Wi-Fi reserved for point-of-sale and self-checkout.