How Edge Computing Is Supercharging the Internet of Things

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An officer on patrol learns instantly that the car in front of her has been registered as stolen. A factory foreman discovers that a critical machine is showing signs of wear and orders maintenance before it breaks down. A broadcaster transmits live, high-definition sports coverage to fans without using wired cameras. What do these three scenarios have in common? All are examples of the Internet of Things (IoT) in action and, more specifically, edge computing.

The Internet of Things is a network of smart machines and technologies that can collect and analyze data to improve decision-making and performance. Often, analytics take place through cloud computing, whereby data points are transmitted to remote servers. But this approach takes time and requires costly broadband resources.

Enter edge computing.

Through edge computing, data processing and analytics take place near or at the point where the data is actually being collected. The result? Less latency, less broadband demand, and lower costs. Here's how edge computing makes a difference in law enforcement, entertainment, and manufacturing.

Improving Road Safety

Though many may imagine servers as rows of tall, boxy machines, in recent years servers have gone mobile, enabling edge computing on the road. Vehicle servers are a boon to law enforcement officers, who can avoid spending precious time on tasks such as manually keying in a license plate number to check suspicious vehicles. Police cruisers equipped with servers such as NEXCOM's MVS series of vehicle servers powered by Intel® Core and Intel Atom processors can quickly decode images of cars taken by a cruiser's rooftop camera, identify license plates, and determine whether they're listed in a database of vehicles of interest to law enforcement.

If a license plate is matched to the database, police officers are alerted with a warning on their vehicle's display. The server can also stream live footage from the cruiser to a police operations center and continuously update the center with GPS information on the cruiser's whereabouts. As a vehicle stop escalates to a car chase or an arrest is made, the center is being provided a wealth of information on the incident in real time.

Pioneering the Future of Sports Broadcasts

Broadcasting live, high-definition video of a sporting event can be an expensive and laborious endeavor, especially when that sport is golf. The U.S. Open requires the installation of more than 39 miles of wiring to transmit images from cameras positioned at key locations across the golf course to a production compound. But a recent trial involving edge computing and 5G wireless communications suggests the future of golf coverage may look very different.

At the 2018 U.S. Open, FOX Sports and Fox Innovation Lab collaborated with Intel, AT&T, and Erricson to live stream high-definition video over a 5G link. The video was transmitted wirelessly from remote 4K video cameras to a media encoder/decoder powered by Intel architecture at the network's edge and successfully shared with golf fans on AT&T's broadcast satellite service. In the future, this low-latency solution may be used to instantly provide important footage to players and audience members at the site of a sporting event. It may also be used to create 360-degree immersive fan experiences.

Bringing Predictive Power to the Factory Floor

Machines can see what humans miss. Imagine a failing motor on a factory floor begins to vibrate more quickly. That initial, negligible acceleration won't be noticeable to workers. But an electronic vibration sensor detects it, triggering analysis by predictive maintenance software. The software notifies personnel, who address the problem before it leads to a costly equipment breakdown.

Edge computing helps manufacturers make the most efficient use of predictive maintenance technology. Consider this: A single factory may house hundreds of sensors. If all those sensors transmit information to a cloud computing service or a central data center, it may overwhelm a company's network. But through edge computing, much of the data doesn't have to travel very far. Factory devices perform analytics on-site and only send key pieces of information to the cloud or data center, freeing up network bandwidth. And less data sent to the cloud also means that companies can save on cloud-based data storage costs.

In Sum

  • The analyzing and processing of data generated by Internet of Things networks often takes place through cloud computing; but this approach takes time and requires costly broadband resources.
  • Through edge computing, data processing and analytics take place at or near the point where the data is actually being collected, resulting in less latency, less broadband demand, and lower costs. Applications in law enforcement, entertainment, manufacturing, and other industries are achieving new levels of cost savings and performance.

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