The power of two

Is Edge Computing an alternative to Cloud or are they complementary? Martin Blunn, Chief Technology Officer at Solutionize Global explains the merits of both with some use cases

With the Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G showing no sign of slowing down, the need to process data faster than ever before while maintaining security has never been more critical. Throughout the UK, an increasing number of organisations are adopting cloud so they can respond swiftly to customer demand, but data protection remains at a premium. Interestingly, when companies don't implement cloud correctly, protection of their data drops significantly lower than that of a traditional on-premise environment, causing many to adopt hybrid models.

When comparing edge and cloud, it appears that both are necessary when considering an organisation's scalability. However, there is still a debate when defining what role each can or should play.

Edge computing is largely about putting data in the right place, for example, Content Distribution Networks or a printing solution. It's typically preferred in remote locations when there's no connectivity to a centralised location, or a requirement for huge storage capacity. However, it's a fact that data transit times from an edge device will generally be greater than alternatives. It's here where reliability and consistency can become compromised by network latency. However, in the same breath, bandwidth is not being wasted and sending unnecessary data to the cloud.

A further advantage comes when organisations use an edge gateway and process real-time data to store and forward to the cloud. This is especially so where the connectivity, bandwidth and latency to the central cloud infrastructure can't be optimised.

Edge can prove to be decisive, and offers a critical avenue for organisations that don't have the capacity to access realms of virtual storage space or need instant data processing.

When thinking about sectors that can fully utilise edge, healthcare and wearable technology are at the forefront. It's hugely dependent on IoT data being processed securely and effectively to provide real-time monitoring of patient illnesses, and is particularly useful for those with long-term health conditions.

For example, NHS England has introduced the use of Freestyle Libre - a continuous glucose monitor system for qualifying patients - which remotely records blood sugar levels for diabetes from a wearable device that's inserted into the patients arm. From this, data can be easily accessed through a mobile app, thereby negating the need for finger prick tests. Additionally, this insight offers a rich pool of analytics to help scientists improve their understanding of Type 1 diabetes.

Meanwhile, tech firm Alibaba has a strong use case for utilising cloud, edge and data aggregation through its Smart City software service, City Brain. In the original pilot, rolled out in Hangzhou, Alibaba offered data collaboration solutions for numerous governmental departments. An example of its success in controlling traffic flow is the emergency response times for vehicles reaching a casualty. Using this technology, they proved an average reduction of 50 per cent, bringing the arrival time down to seven minutes.

Examples like these highlight how changing environments see edge come into its own. This is especially the case where vast amounts of crucial data can be processed at speed and in near real-time. However, let's not discount the power of cloud, especially when around 42 per cent of UK enterprises are adopters. It provides a cost-effective way to store more critical data through analytics and enables organisations to scale-up, deploy analytics and provide a volume of applications that edge simply can't.

The two can in fact work together at different times. As organisations ensure that they are IoT-ready they must also have an existing, streamlined and security-conscious process in place, so that they don't expose themselves to online risk and damage to data. NC