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Is the edge data centre the answer to IoT risk?

Posted by on December 18, 2017

IDC forecasts the global data sphere will grow to 163 zettabytes (ZB) by 2025. That’s ten times the 16.1ZB of data generated in 2016.

The majority of this newly created data will come from the rapid expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT). Gartner predicts 20.4 billion ‘things’ will be connected by 2020, so IoT messages will vastly increase traffic across networks.

However, as the tsunami of data transcends across the network, the risk of latency becomes more prominent – decreasing the value of data and intelligence. IoT devices working in real-time will be unable to function correctly and valuable insights will be lost across business networks. Connectivity problems, downtime issues and data security are also a real threat to IoT deployments. So what do companies need to do to minimise these risks posed by increased IoT data?

One of the solutions powering the future of IoT is edge computing. By 2020 5.6 billion devices will be connected to an edge computing solution, bringing with it an increased need for edge data centres to support the data processing. Pushing data to the edge will help businesses overcome various obstacles involved with IoT deployment, allowing companies to reap the benefits without getting lost in a web of network latency and invaluable data.

Faster response times and reduction in latency

Sending data to be processed in an edge data centre means it can be analysed closer to the device, avoiding a roundtrip to the cloud, which massively reduces the time it takes to glean valuable insights from the data. In many instances of IoT device usage, real time data is required in order for the device to properly work and in these cases the latency of the cloud is just not acceptable.

For example, driverless cars must be working with real time data in order to make a snap decision on when to apply brakes or manoeuvre around obstacles. This decision must be made at the edge to avoid the data having to traverse a series of networks and risk not getting back to the car quickly enough – resulting in crashes and accidents.

Overcoming connectivity issues

IoT devices rely on constant connectivity, otherwise data can be deemed void. Due to their location close to the source, edge data centres are helping to overcome downtime issues, especially when IoT devices are relying on networks in remote areas or on the move.

For example, IoT connected oil or gas rigs in remote areas may face severe connectivity issues. Sending data from the rig to an edge data centre means it can be processed and analysed without relying on a solid connection to the cloud – meaning insights can be gleaned and no valuable data will be lost.

Minimises privacy risks

Using edge data centres can also improve the security of a business’s network. Decisions can be made much faster at the edge and only data deemed relevant will need to pass to the cloud, meaning a business has a better scope of all its data and valuable information won’t get lost in the ether.

With edge computing, sensitive data can also be kept within the device rather than transferring to the cloud. One example can be found in retail where advertising systems are used to analyse information from customer devices in order to deliver targeted ads. Using edge computing to analyse the data means it can be processed while remaining within the consumer’s device, rather than being sent to the cloud where it may become identifiable information at risk of a privacy breach.

IoT can bring endless possibilities to a business. But with the increase in connected devices comes an explosion of data traffic which could see a business drown. Edge computing will be needed in order to securely manage and process the influx of data, and allow businesses to harness all the potential IoT can offer.