Let’s add some real Edge to the Edge

– A trend report from IoT Solution World Congress (IoT SWC) Barcelona.

What are the tech giants discussing, what is the IoT technology of tomorrow and what are the main takeaways from one of the leading  IoT industry events? Our CTO Niclas Norlén gives you his thoughts and reflections of IoTSWC 2018.

At this year’s edition of IoTSWC the trend was quite clear and even stronger than last years edition – all the actions happens on the Edge of the network. Today we are seeing the tech giants Microsoft and Google fighting for attention for their Edge technologies, whilst a few years ago the battle were rather about their Cloud technologies.

The intensified investments in Edge technology does not come as a surprise. For example the chip giant Arm predicts to have shipped 1 trillion IoT chips within a 20 year period. The majority of the ARM chips are used in applications at the Edge, in everything from sensors to gateways.

 

Crunching data at the Edge

So why this enormous investment and this massive amount of IoT chips prediction by ARM? I think it can be explained by just mentioning one of the cases I heard about at the congress;  The elevator manufacturer Schindler have 1.5M elevators connected on a global basis, each generating 2.5G of data every day. You can do the math but the conclusion is that there is an overwhelming amount of data that needs to be crunched every day.

Now ask yourself:
Where is the best place to crunch all this data? In the cloud, sending the data through a Telco? Or locally at the Edge with low latency and thus no cost for sending data to the cloud (which for Schindler would be a significant cost…)?

Well you’re right, the majority of all data has to stay at the Edge. And this is the reason why the “Cloud” giants as Microsoft and Google are making significant investments into what they call Edge technology. They are on a mission to make it easy to crunch data and send the data that brings value to the cloud. And all this data is generated by sensors many times having an ARM core.

The tech giants have extended their offering now not only covering operating systems and technology for the Cloud but also offering for the Edge gateway that normally has the processing power required for those operating systems.

 

A missing piece in the puzzle

But wait, there is a missing piece in the three piece puzzle Edge device (sensor) – Edge gateway – Cloud. This piece is one of the most important ones and the very foundation of IoT.

You need an operating system for the ever so constrained devices, devices which are is the very source for all data; an operating system for the sensors and actuators. In those constrained devices we often see the low cost CPU’s, the majority of those from ARM with the prediction of 1 trillion of devices within 20 years. Those CPU’s have very limited resources compared to the CPU’s in the Edge gateways. An operating system for those devices must have a very small footprint yet provide an easy way to develop an application for processing of sensor data.


The IoT tech giants offering stops at the Edge gateway today – the device with significant processing power that connects the sensors and actuators to the cloud. But even further to the left in the picture you have the real Edge devices that is the very source of the data – the majority of all devices are found here, the temp sensors, presence sensors and vibration sensors to mention a few.

 

Retrofit demands Zero Wires

But there is more needed from the operating system for the constrained Edge devices. There is a strong trend in retrofitting sensors and actuators especially within Smart buildings, driven by green legislations, and Industrial Sensors networks, driven by predictive maintenance. Two industries that got much attention at IoT SWC, having separate focus tracks at the congress. For this retrofitting to become cost efficient the devices needs to be Zero Wire, i.e. either battery powered or powered by energy harvesting technologies. This means that energy efficient hardware and an operating system providing an energy efficient connectivity and data processing (i.e. Edge Computing) is a must.

In our product strategy the retrofitting trend is one of the main driving force. Our R&D focus to stay on the cutting Edge of technology developing our ultra low energy operating system and an ultra reliable communication stack for constrained devices.

Leaving IoT SWC I’m even more confident that we are on the right path adding some real Edge to the Edge.