Cheeseburgers, Battery Corrosion and the Southwest Airlines School of Data Centers: The Future of Edge at IoT Tech World

Where is the edge going to be?

Columbus, Ohio, says Jim Davis, senior analyst at Edge Research Group.

The edge-that collection of hardware, software, networking equipment that will be deployed over the next several years to ensure that people are close to their data-is definitely real and not just a way station for the cloud, Davis and other speakers said at IoT Tech World in Santa Clara last week. Companies will need distributed computing assets to reduce bandwidth costs and latency while improving performance.

$700 billion cumulatively will be spent by 2028, Davis said, on data center infrastructure: that number includes 102,000 MW of data center power capacity. And a big part of that will go to the “aggregation” edge-- i.e. data centers located in mid-sized cities like Columbus, Corpus Christi, and Portland-and “device” edge infrastructure, a category that includes data centers inside facilities, mini-data-centers like Natick installed in downtown neighborhoods and IoT gateways for remote devices. 32% of that power equipment will go to the device edge, he said.

Another way to spell out the differences. A round trip for data between a device and the cloud can take 160 milliseconds. The round-trip to an aggregation data center can take 100 milliseconds. To an edge server, 10 milliseconds with, potentially, a more reliable signal and better bandwidth.

Other noteworthy tidbits from the show:

  • Fast food chains is perhaps the most active segment right now in IoT, said Charlie Wu of Advantech, which supplies equipment to commercial and industrial customers. Olabisi Boyle, vice president of IoT platforms at Visa, echoed his comments: Visa is working on a number of ways to streamline the drive-thru window experience.
  • And speaking of Visa, Visa will not sell consumer data, she stated. However, if there comes a day when the data can be appropriately and convincingly anonymized, there could be a possibility that Visa could consider providing it to third parties for appropriate analytics. It's symbolic of the early state of data sharing and data markets. The idea is compelling, but some definite challenges remain. Some companies such as SPS, which provides bench-marking to utilities, effectively has created a model for data sharing. Expect to see more in this arena.
  • Utilities and analytics? They'll spend billions. See chart from Neil Strother at Navigant. navigant iot chart
  • A few years ago, we wrote that insurance companies would drive IoT. Shannon Lewandowski, part of the innovation team at American Modern Insurance Group, said yes, that's true, and that one of the first areas will be reducing water claims. By monitoring pipe health, insurers want to eliminate accidents and/or damage.
  • How long should batteries last? Armaghan Ebrahimi, a partner solutions engineer at Sony working on its Spresense IoT development board, says devices built on her board can run six month on a coin battery and a single charge. Sara Brown, vice president of marketing at the LoRa alliance, goes one further. You'll see IoT devices where the battery will corrode and fail before it runs out of charge.
  • Speaking of LoRa, the battle between LoRa and 5G seems to be heading for a peak. 5G is best suited for long-range, high-bandwidth communications LoRa is low-bandwidth and long range. LoRa costs less and will be offered in private networks. 5G advocates argue that reliability, latency and integrity are on their side. The two will coexist but which becomes more prevalent-and which ultimately can cannibalize the other-are looming questions.
  • And speaking of small servers, check out EDJX. It makes card-sized nanoservers for industrial applications. The servers will also be relatively low prices because EDJX may be able to take advantage of some unusual component sourcing strategies. Imagine putting a server on a pump. Pumps use 10% of the world's electricity and 90% are inefficient, he said, citing data from Grunfos. Switching to energy efficient pumps would provide enough power for 1 billion people.