Edge Computing and Its Impact on IoT

At the moment, it’s safe to say that technological novelties such as self-driving cars, automated industrial safety systems, and those smart watches are still in their infancy. That said, once these state-of-the-art contraptions and their cloud-based brains reach their teens, start multiplying, and get more and more mercurial and needy, the world is not going to be large enough to accommodate their every wish. Here’s a scenario that could totally be a thing not so far into the future. Do you want to check how many steps you’ve taken on your smartwatch en route to your favourite camping spot? Well, guess what, there’s a guy in Hong Kong – super tired, heading home from work, and all he wants to do is program his remotely-controlled bathtub, so it’s ready when it gets there.

And he beat you to the punch by a couple of milliseconds. Now, you have to wait for the cloud to compute his water temperature, as well as Dmitry’s dog racing results for his online betting app. Oh, and there’s an ominously hissing valve in a power plant in Bulgaria that’s attached to a sensor, that’s attached to a thing, and that promptly needs to be taken into consideration, too. The thing is, as the IoT grows more prominent, more and more industries, as well as individuals, will justifiably want to make good use of it. Everyone, from Elon Musk, to a guy live-streaming a particularly funny verbal confrontation in front of his popcorn stand, will want to be able to use the cloud to share their data. That said, even with the mightiest of clouds with exabytes of space (or whatever the appropriate big word is), soon enough, there simply won’t be enough space for all of the IoT services to run smoothly.

This is where edge computing comes in. The concept is simple enough, and the best thing about it is that it doesn’t represent a completely novel and tough-to-implement kind of computing. It’s more of a way in which data processing is delegated and handled. In this article, we’re going to explain in detail what edge computing is and what kind of impact it already has on IoT.

Without further ado, here’s the deal.

What is IoT?

First things first, let’s briefly talk about the so-called IoT.

IoT represents an acronym that stands for Internet of things and broadly describes devices with sensors that gather and process data, as well as send it back and forth via the Internet or some other network.  

The things that make IoT more and more of a big deal with every passing day mostly revolve around a thing called ‘cloud.’ 

A cloud makes it easy to send and receive data over the Internet. You don’t need large memory cards, cables, or to be near the source of the data you want to receive.

Now, at the moment, the number of devices that function this way is about 13.1 billion. By the year 2030, this number is projected to skyrocket to just under 30 billion, which is a massive increase that may overload the current cloud-based global information-sharing system.

What is Edge Computing?

Simply put, edge computing is a way of data processing and storing that favours tackling data closer to the ‘edge’ of an IoT network, rather than sending it all to a centralized cloud.

Think of it as data handling decentralization.

In principle, this is similar to the process of decentralization in a country. Resource gathering, taxes, building new settlements, and fixing the existing infrastructure is delegated to local communities that have more autonomy and that are not directly subject to the capital city.

This way, the rest of the country can benefit and slowly grow in strength, while the burden on the capital city is relieved.

Edge computing does the same thing – just with data instead of taxes and other assets.

The Benefits of Edge Computing

At the moment, the world may not still feel the full brunt of millions of new smart watch users and folks programming their Teslas to get them from A to B on their own and cheaply, too.

That said, it does seem as if the data-overload times are just around the corner.

Now, since no one wants to have their washing machines sitting idle while you’re not at home because you can’t program them remotely, the smart Internet-savvy folks are taking action well before the storm hits properly.

The sooner an edge-computing network is set up on a wider scale, the less pressure there will be on global cloud computing once the exponential growth of IoT hits the good ole Internet.

Here are some immediate benefits of edge computing:

Security of the Data

… that is transferred non-stop to and from a cloud tens of thousands of miles away can be easily compromised. While complex and highly-refined security measures do exist to prevent this from happening, the sheer amount of sensitive data being shared online can make even the highest-security systems vulnerable.

With edge computing, a lot of the risk that comes naturally with sharing sensitive data online is naturally alleviated simply by – not sending stuff to the cloud. Sounds simple enough, but this fairly logical security measure couldn’t be taken without edge computing – at least not without exponentially increasing the costs of data storage.

Sharing your small business passwords, important emails, and other sensitive information within a limited, personal network means the risk of any of it getting hijacked is considerably smaller than it would be with cloud storage.

Less App Latency

‘It’s not the game itself that makes gamers violent – it’s the lag.’ is a common running joke in the gaming community. Up until only recently, the worst thing that could happen due to your Internet connection lagging is getting killed in Call of Duty and getting your knickers quite in a twist over it.

Nowadays, though, lag can mean the difference between life and death – in the real world. From self-driving cars to automated industrial security systems, split-second decisions are now made by robots that sit on a cloud. Now, even though latencies for such automated technologies are typically measured in milliseconds, that’s often all it takes for a disaster to happen that could have been prevented.

For this reason, decentralised data processing and transferring systems that are near the edge of the actual physical process at hand are much more efficient and snappy when it comes to decision-making.

Easy Scalability

Other than being used in meetings by employees who want to sound smart, the word ‘scalability’ tends to mean a lot to folks who run businesses – big and small.  Well, especially the small ones, probably. The thing is, the larger a business or an organization gets, the more data it has to juggle on a daily basis. This is why an increasing number of most IT services companies are opting to conduct their business in some way based on edge computing.

  1. With edge computing, the majority of important work-related data is moved around and stored locally. This makes it easier to access and safer.
  2. It also means being able to add more assets to store this data in a “lateral” way without having to pay a lot of money.
  3. Reduced Digital Infrastructure Costs

One of the unintended consequences of decentralizing data processing and storing is the reduced cost of doing so. The thing is, the beauty of the cloud used to be (and it still is to a large extent) its availability and ease of use. That said, now that various organisations are learning more about edge computing, buying storage space on the cloud is slowly but surely going the way of the Dodo. This is especially true when it comes to some of the more easily manageable computing processes that can be tackled locally more quickly – and for less money.


Examples of Edge Computing Put to Good Use

Getting rid of the big brother and its tentacles may seem like an attractive prospect on paper. That said, many people are still not sure of how edge computing works in a real-world context. Now, what we’ve been commenting on this whole article is the scale at which edge computing will likely expand in the future. The truth is – it’s already here big time. Here are some of the most prominent examples of what edge computing brings to the IoT table, so to speak:

Self-Driving Cars

Imagine having a self-driving car that relies entirely on your Internet connection. Depending on where you live, you may do just fine on the road and even have a power nap en route to work. Alternatively, of course, in some places with a poor Internet connection, you may not make it past your garage door before crashing into your trash bin. Autonomous vehicle technology represents one of the industries where edge computing is absolutely crucial. Without it, it’s safe to say that the entire idea of self-driving cars could be scrapped. Rather than sending data back and forth to a remote cloud-based server, an edge-computing-based vehicle makes decisions itself – based on the data its sensors gather.

Property Surveillance Systems

Having your burglar alarm go off a couple of minutes after the trespassers have already legged it, having helped themselves to your Xbox and your gran’s engraved silverware set, isn’t going to make much difference for your home’s security. In the world of automated contraptions that need to work well around the clock and with a split-second margin of error – surveillance systems rank quite highly. This is why having an unreliable connection to a cloud far away is always going to get beaten by a rapid-response edge computing system that will sound the alarm the moment it spots a suspicious-looking youth sporting a balaclava.


Agricultural Watering Systems

… can also benefit massively from being able to do their business sans a cloud. If it’s not raining when it’s supposed to, a watering system set up in the middle of a field will start working its magic based on the data it’s gathered locally. The decision on whether or not the turnips need some water at a given moment will also be made locally. The turnips themselves will, thus, also grow locally. Of course, a system that’s as complex as a crop watering system will need to contact the cloud-based bosses upstairs every once in a while. That said, with most of the computational heavy-lifting done quickly and, on the spot, a tech-savvy farmer can rest assured that his or her crops will not fall victim to belated irrigation decisions.


All in all, whether you’re a farmer using some high-tech gadgetry in your fieldwork or a small business owner looking to protect their employees’ passwords – edge computing can be a fantastic solution. It alleviates the pressure from off the cloud, it gives you more room for growth locally, and it does all that for a reduced cost compared to cloud storage fees.  


Check out all the software testing webinars and eBooks here on EuroSTARHuddle.com

About the Author

Ronan Healy

Hi everyone. I'm part of the EuroSTAR team. I'm here to help you engage with the EuroSTAR Huddle Community and get the best out of your membership. Together with software testing experts, we have a range of webinars and eBooks for you to enjoy and we have lots of opportunities for you to come together online. If you have any thoughts about the community, please get in contact with me.
Find out more about @ronan

Related Content