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Smart devices should drive processing power to the network edge

This is the first in a two-part blog series.

Many of the devices we interact with on a daily basis are advertised as smart — even hairbrushes, forks, and water bottles. However, most of these smart products do not currently have the capabilities to provide significant advantages aside from collecting data about how often you drink water or brush your hair. On the other hand, smart products for commercial and industrial organizations can  improve operations and bottom lines.

The case for smart devices

There are already more IoT devices than there are people on Earth, and that number will increase in the years to come.

Early generations of smart computing systems were generally bulky and required centralization and protection in designated rooms. Recent innovations have resulted in many powerful devices with smaller footprints, minimal power consumption and easier installations that improve features, including environmental monitoring and predictive analytics.

For the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), vendors have developed smart sensors that can perform a multitude of functions, such as monitoring temperature and pressure or flagging early warnings of trouble in unstaffed locations.

In addition to these capabilities, a major plus of modern IIoT technology is the ubiquitous adoption of wireless devices and battery operation. These advancements let users rapidly and economically deploy sensors with easy installations and minimal downtime required for launch.

Capturing data

Once smart devices have been installed, IT professionals can find true value by transferring data to cloud-based supervisory and analytical systems. These systems provide actionable insights for users to establish a preventative or predictive maintenance program. With these types of programs, technicians can respond as quickly as possible when a problem such as an air conditioning failure or a water leak arises.

There is a catch with smart devices; they provide vast amounts of raw data without context, making it a necessity to pre-process this data and boil it down to the essential information. In some cases, smart devices must perform analytics at the edge. In the field, these smart sensors often live at the extreme edge of the network, far past what traditional networking capabilities can access. Organizations have found the best practice is to process and analyze device data at the edge because there is too much lag time when sending valuable information to and from the cloud.

In my next article, I’ll discuss some logical steps for establishing an edge computing architecture, ideally suited for processing raw IIoT data to produce useful results from your smart devices.

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