The Edge is the new Internet with a significant boom on multiple axes: digital transformation, Data analytics, networking and AI/ML.
Whether you are a faculty member, student, industry sponsor or researcher, it’s worthwhile understanding how the “edge” is evolving.
There are a couple of definitions of “edge”:
The interface between customers and a business servicing them meet at the “edge” – the business-customer-interface edge. The better and more easy and pleasant this edge gets, the happier the customers will be and businesses will do well. Please note, a customer could be an internal customer, an employee using facilities, for example.
The other, recent definition of edge in the context of where the digital experience gets deployed – is the digital components that are outside of the datacenter (or centralized compute, storage, cloud etc.,) and are in locations and environment where humans interact (directly or indirectly) with on-premises compute of any scale – sensors, devices, point-of-sale etc., Today, there are millions of billions of devices and sensors in our workplaces, homes, public spaces and transportation we use. Example, point-of-sales machines, ATMs, environmental sensors like air-quality etc., Businesses spend significant amount of money deploying these edge computing components to read from the environment that interacts with humans as well a control the environment that affects us one way or other.
High level, the architecture in Fig. 1, represents one deployment architecture
High level, there are 4 parts to this implementation:
The device end of deployment - Different devices like building management system components, manufacturing floor sensors, surveillance and safety equipment layer..
Data layer (Analytics, AI/ML, Workflow etc.,)
Dashboards / Integrations with other systems
Whichever engineering discipline one is from, the 4 layers and the edge in total will be playing a role, one way or other.
Here are some examples where this may apply:
A building’s structural integrity is measured in seismically active locations and sensors attached to structures measure seismic vibrations, if any and the data is transmitted to back-end or on-premises system for alerting and subsequent analysis purposes
On a manufacturing floor, a set of sensors attached to critical motors measures vibrations and relays to plant operations staff for action or preventative downtime
In a large retail store, all the devices on the retail floor and the warehouses attached have critical temperature, humidity, surveillance and point-of-sale devices installed. Ensuring they are up and running, fixing software patches if any, deriving consumer patterns from data from these devices etc., will help the retail store manager and other groups such as procurement and marketing planning departments get valuable insights
Any office building has entry restrictions it’s very common to have surveillance equipment deployed to secure the premises and employees working in these spaces.
Collaboration spaces such as conference rooms etc., have many pieces of equipment that are key to employees and visitors meet to collaborate – each of those devices have to be up and running and also to be maintained – an edge service could track usage, up/down time, energy consumption and drive other automated actions based on learnt patterns.
What can you do to leverage such emerging technologies?
If you are a….
You could do this
Civil, Mechanical Engineering etc.,
Explore what devices are playing a role at the edge – slice 1, above
Computer Science, Networking etc.
Slice 2 would be of interest to understand connectivity and security controls aspects
Any discipline but interested in Data
You would be looking at Slice 3 to understand the meaning of data, run AI/ML models to derive patterns and derivative actions
Working with Industries deploying real solutions…
Understand Slices 1, 3 & 4 to produce solutions that make your industry sponsor happy and fund projects for your institution and students
Student or Researcher
In any of the disciplines and will be out to get a job
Understand what is possible at the edge and the patterns of data flow / data, that is relevant to your target companies and take up projects to either get meaningful data from relevant devices or find use cases to push relevant data to systems or operators (consumers of edge data)
Administrator or Dean of an institution
Any institution interested in finding good jobs for passing out students and get industry sponsorship
Find projects that can be implemented, leveraging edge technologies, on your campus or in your community that gives back to society and at the same time creates a talent / skill pool that helps your institution, community, faculty and students
I am interested in staying in touch with faculty members and those interested in trying out campus and community projects.
Please reach out to me at Niranjan.firstname.lastname@example.org with BITES: in the Subject line.