The factory of the future: where does edge computing fit in?
According to , the smart factory is the factory of the future, with robotics and automation both gaining significant momentum. Each promising to transform the way factory workers, processes and technologies leverage data to impact production quality, operational efficiency and agility, and costs. When it comes to how and where this explosive amount of data is processed, edge computing is beginning to take centre stage: processing it at the source.
The manufacturing industry is well-known as one of the early adopters of edge computing. However, it has been pushed even further into the limelight by the rapid implementation of the Internet of Things (IoT), especially over the last year in the face of COVID-19. As manufacturing plants react to the changing world that the pandemic will leave behind, this technology is now coming to the forefront as a necessary component of network infrastructure. It promises to support a new, highly digitalised and connected production facility. Together with next generation technologies such as 5G and artificial intelligence (AI), it can help manufacturing businesses strengthen their IT infrastructures to maintain a competitive advantage and support post-crisis recovery.
Keeping digital transformation top of the agenda in a post-COVID era
The ongoing pandemic has pushed digital transformation to the top of the agenda for those working in manufacturing. Technology is altering everything from design to production, creating dramatic changes in network traffic patterns and producing significant amounts of data across disparate devices in multiple locations. For many manufacturers looking to a post-COVID era, the future vision is one of factory digitisation. And for good reason. According to research, than those that have not yet digitised their business.
Edge computing can provide a way to deploy technology with unhindered network performance, no matter the location. By decentralising compute, it not only reduces pressure on data centres and service provider networks but also preserves bandwidth and enables real-time processing closer to the users and devices – rather than sending data to more central locations in the cloud.
Maintaining a competitive edge
Collecting and processing data at the edge, closer to the source, also brings a number of additional operational and commercial advantages. Take the automotive industry, for example. From January to September last year, car production losses across Europe amounted to over compared to the previous year, as manufacturers came to terms with the effects of COVID-19. For manufacturers looking to recoup lost revenue, one benefit is the ability to use data from multiple machines, processes and systems to adapt the manufacturing process in real-time. Where optimising both yield and product quality are paramount, edge computing can support with precision monitoring of the production line right on the factory floor.
Importantly, this precision monitoring and control of manufacturing assets and processes also enables swift operational responsiveness to unforeseen events, something that naturally many manufacturers have realised the importance of over the last year. Real-time data processing at the edge enables the gathering of more immediate data from connected systems and devices. The ability to analyse data at the point of creation, rather than sending it to the cloud, leads to faster reactions from leaders and ultimately more informed decision-making within the business.
Deploying next-generation technologies
For manufacturers who are increasingly making use of next-generation technologies such as IoT, AI and wearables, there is a strengthened business case for implementing edge computing solutions. Because of its ability to support local, real-time data processing, edge is key to grasping the opportunities that these data- and performance-intensive technologies present.
IoT and wearables, such as assisted reality (AR) smart glasses, have seen an uptick in adoption over the past year. Through its ability to empower workers and streamline workflows, edge has the potential to enable smarter supply chains and improve worker safety and productivity.
In manufacturing plants, AR solutions are already actively enhancing maintenance and production by enabling a range of hands-free tasks and processes. For example, smart glasses equipped with a ‘See-What-I-See’ functionality allow an onsite car mechanic, who might have run into difficulty in a time or safety-critical inspection or repair decision, to connect with a wider pool of remote experts and receive valuable support and guidance to complete a task. Additional capabilities from AR smart glasses can be accessed whenever and wherever they are needed, without disrupting the mechanic’s workflow.
Other examples available at the worker’s fingertips include document retrieval, receiving new workflow instructions, real-time video and image capture, as well as accepting new product updates. These remote-control capabilities are increasingly important in facilitating greater efficiency as well as maintaining the reduced frequency of human-to-human contact in the current climate.
How the power of 5G will unlock new opportunities
Finally, we couldn’t discuss edge computing within the manufacturing industry without exploring its relationship with 5G, with the roll-out of the latter being intrinsically linked to the current and future development of the former. To render the 5G vision of connecting millions of devices with ultra-low latency and ultra-high reliability – and at reduced costs – edge computing is required, significantly reducing the physical distance that data has to travel for processing, thereby limiting lag or delay.
Beyond this, the rise in robotics and automated factories is giving rise to massive amounts of data which require strong connectivity. 5G has the power to support this and, as a result, is expected to play a key role in global economic recovery while kick-starting growth in the sector. The global edge computing market is projected to grow by , with the manufacturing sector set to hold the largest market size during this period. 5G will play a key part in driving this growth.
With IoT deployment on the rise, manufacturers are increasingly adopting edge computing to support the data generated by these solutions, as well as to maintain a competitive advantage by reducing unforeseen downtime issues and improving overall efficiency. As organisations look to initiate post-COVID recovery strategies, it’s clear edge computing should form an important part of any such plans.
By Nick Offin, Head of Sales, Marketing & Operations at Dynabook Northern Europe
IT Employees Predict 90% Increase in Cloud Security Spending
As companies get back on their feet post-pandemic, they’re going all-in on cloud applications. In a recent report by Devo Technology titled “Beyond Cloud Adoption: How to Embrace the Cloud for Security and Business Benefits”, 81% of the 500 IT and security team members surveyed said that COVID accelerated their cloud timelines. More than half of the top-performing businesses reported gains in visibility. In fact, the cloud now outnumbers on-premise solutions at a 3:1 ratio.
But the benefits are accompanied by significant cybersecurity risks, as cloud infrastructure is more complex than legacy systems. Let’s dive in.
Why Are Cloud Platforms Taking Over?
According to Forrester, the public cloud infrastructure market could grow 28% over the next year, up to US$113.1bn. Companies shifting to remote work and decentralised workplaces find it easy to store and access information, especially as networks start to share more and more supply chain and enterprise information—think risk mitigation platforms and ESG ratings.
Here’s the catch: when you shift to the cloud, you choose a more complex system, which often requires cloud-native platforms for network security. In other words, you can’t stop halfway. ‘Only cloud-native platforms can keep up with [the cloud’s] speed and complexity” and ultimately increase visibility and control’, said Douglas Murray, CEO at cloud security provider Valtix.
Here’s a quick list of the top cloud security companies, as ranked by Software Testing Help:
What are the Security Issues?
Here’s the bad news. According to Accenture, less than 40% of companies have achieved the full value they expected on their cloud investments. All-in greater complexity has forced companies to spend more to hire skilled tech workers, analyse security data, and manage new cybersecurity threats.
The two main issues are (1) a lack of familiarity with cloud systems and (2) challenges with shifting legacy security systems to new platforms. Out of the 500 IT employees from Devo Technology’s cloud report, for example, 80% said they’d sorted 40% more security data, suffered from a lack of cloud security training, and experienced a 60% increase in cybersecurity threats.
How Will Companies React?
They certainly won’t stop investing in cloud platforms. Out of the 500 enterprise-level companies that Devo Technology talked to throughout North America and Western Europe, 90% anticipated a jump in cloud security spending in 2021. They’ll throw money at automating security processes and investing in security upskilling programmes.
After all, company executives will find it incredibly difficult to stick with legacy systems when some cloud-centred companies have found success. Since moving from Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) offerings to the cloud, Accenture has saved up to 70% on its processes; recently, the company announced that it would invest US$3bn to help its clients ‘realise the cloud’s business value, speed, cost, talent, and innovation benefits’.
The company stated: ‘Security is often seen as the biggest inhibitor to a cloud-first journey—but in reality, it can be its greatest accelerator’.