How edge computing will finally make IT and OT get along

Jeffrey Ricker is the co-founder and CEO of Hivecell, the Edge-as-a-Service company. Jeffrey is an experienced technology leader, a hands-on senior software developer and entrepreneur. He has a 30-year career working with the financial industry, startup companies and the Defense Department.

Gartner estimates that by 2025, 75% of data will be processed outside the traditional data centre or cloud.

This is clear evidence that manufacturers should be looking to employ edge computing power that offers easy-to-deploy, future-proofed, technology agnostic solutions that can empower them to scale infinitely (no manpower required to install) and save massive amounts of resources in managing and processing big data.

However, many are simply letting their smart devices collect data in the cloud arbitrarily and are unable to maximize the business relevant data being collected. This is especially relevant to IT and operational technology (OT) teams working with smart machines on the factory floor.

Edge computing is critical for the success of companies adopting Industry 4.0 and IIoT. However, IT and OT teams have been working in silos for years, letting helpful data fall to the wayside and stunting a company’s ability to scale.

The organizations that are thriving and consistently innovating have realized that the data that OT teams generate must be mined for what is useful to the enterprise. This is often where the cloud is introduced as a solution for integration, mostly due to the ability to store high volumes of data for analysis. However, many OT teams are uncomfortable with this, feeling like they lose control.

Edge computing is the natural alternative — it enables the cloud-based, centrally managed infrastructure that IT teams need, while still facilitating control by OT teams by being placed on the factory floor.

Additionally, manufacturers have long been dismissed for their fears surrounding pushing highly sensitive information about their processes to the cloud. With edge computing, they do not have to compromise their concerns and can remain diligent about security. So, what are some other benefits of adopting edge computing for IT and OT teams?

Bandwidth

Smart machines used in the manufacturing space generate massive amounts of data, some of which is so large that it is not feasible to move it from its source to the cloud. Because of that, enterprises are missing an opportunity to analyze data on-premise and make smarter decisions.

For example, data scientists are creating many novel machine learning models that can process videos of materials in process and detect or predict flaws – nobody wants to watch hours of footage of plastic being formed and pushing all that footage to the cloud would be a waste of resources. Edge computing, which is essential to Industry 4.0 can help analyze the data at the source so only the valuable insights are taking up space.

Cost

Moving very large amounts of data across the Internet and storing it in the cloud can be expensive.

For many enterprises, a key concern for adopting edge computing is how they will afford to replace their legacy systems and start from zero. However, edge computing power can convert those systems quickly and affordably, mitigating that concern.

Autonomy

With reliable edge computing allowing teams to process data locally, a downed power line or loss of Internet connection will not disrupt business.

For example, teams can’t simply hit the pause button on a plastic processor mid-process for a power outage, the plastic has to flow or there’s a serious issue for production. Edge computing mitigates that risk.

Compliance

There are regulations in many countries (think GDPR and the 2020 California Privacy Law) that dictate where and how data can be stored which prevents use of the cloud. Global organizations will be better suited to store data at the edge to ensure regulations are followed and data is processed effectively.

Latency

It’s no secret that data cannot move faster than the speed of light. Switching between routers and not processing data on premise can cause significant delays in machine decision making.

In summary, with converged IT and OT, enterprises are able to deliver continuous product and service improvements, while anticipating future needs. This is of paramount of importance as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to make forecasting difficult.

Every company is the master of their destiny when it comes to innovation and adoption. Those who embrace innovation will thrive, those who do not will die. It’s all about a shift in mindset, and the action of adopting solutions like edge computing doesn’t have to be a huge investment in time or resources. And with the help of an established Edge-as-a-Service provider, the process can begin with the push of a button, setting both OT and IT up for success for years to come.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Want to learn more about topics like this from thought leaders in the space? Find out more about the Edge Computing Expo Europe on June 16-17, a brand new, innovative event and conference exploring the edge computing ecosystem.

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