What is Edge Computing?

Edge computing is a very loosely defined term in the industry. Many people are familiar with it, but there are differences in understanding what it means. There is common knowledge that edge computing is data that is processed at the edge of the network. This means that the data is processed before it crosses any wide area network (WAN), and therefore is NOT processed in a traditional data center, whether it be a private or public cloud data center.

But there are many ways to create edge computing data. For example, IoT sensors (meaning sensors that measure a machine or the environment) create data that is processed in edge compute.

So why do businesses need edge computing?

Edge computing can offer different benefits to different industries. In some cases, edge computing can help with processing time sensitive data more quickly. In other cases, it can simply help businesses maintain certain government compliance regulations. It can also help save on bandwidth costs. In the three examples below, I’ve outlined specific examples of how edge computing can improve IoT processes across the transportation, utilities and manufacturing industries.

Edge compute for transportation safety

As more autonomous vehicles make their way onto public roads, it’s important to think about how their technology can help to keep the passengers inside those vehicles safe. Edge computing can help with that. Autonomous vehicles require a combination of technologies including video camera feeds. These feeds are instrumental in maintaining the overall safety of the vehicles and the passengers inside.

But if autonomous vehicles send their video feed data to a data center, seconds are added to the overall time it takes for that data to get processed. As drivers know, all it takes is a couple of seconds for a vehicle to get into an accident. With a central compute system inside the vehicle, data can be processed faster, decisions can be made seconds quicker and help keep passengers safe, all thanks to edge computing.

Remote data collection for utility providers

For utility providers, collecting certain types of data to stay compliant with government regulations is standard procedure. Many of these utility providers are required to collect and store data for years. In remote locations, often the WAN is unreliable making it difficult to send data to the appropriate data center to maintain compliance.

Edge computing ensures the compliance requirements are met even without WAN connectivity.  Edge computing allows the data to be collected and stored locally at the remote site without needing to be transferred back to a data center.

Edge compute for manufacturing

In the manufacturing vertical we at Cisco often work with two different types of customers: the machine operators and the machine manufacturers. While the machine operators have the flexibility to process the data wherever they want, including small industrial data centers right inside the factory, the machine manufacturers often do not have these options.

Machine manufacturers often sell machines to other manufacturers as a single device that stand inside the factory floor. In this example, the manufacturers that purchase and use these machines do not have dedicated network connectivity to these since that would require additional server equipment to be installed near those machines.

Therefore, the machine operators must integrate any edge compute device right into the machine. That way they can leverage edge compute to pre-process and evaluate the data from all sensors directly on the machine.

This allows machine manufacturers to offer predictive maintenance services as well as remote monitoring & management services which ultimately increase the Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE).

How Cisco addresses edge compute in IoT

Cisco is already known as the best-in-class networking equipment provider for enterprise networks, but we go further. Unlike other solutions that require up multiple vendors to deploy an edge compute solution, Cisco provides it all in one. We integrate edge compute into our industrial networking products (routers, switches, wireless access points) to make deployments and management easier. We also offer an application infrastructure framework, called Cisco IOx, that enables apps to run at the edge on Docker and on other formats. Its simple and intuitive workflow helps developers build, run and debug their edge applications. The result? Digitization of assets in the most efficient way.

Ready to learn more?

If you are interested in learning more about how Cisco supports edge compute, I recommend you check out our IOx product page and our developer resources in IoT Dev Center on our DevNet page. Here we give example use cases, resources and information on how you can start a free trial of our products!


What is Edge Computing?


Mirko Grabel

Sr Manager, Technical Marketing