Edge Mesh proposes that all computing tasks and data be shared using a meshed network of edge devices and routers, offering many advantages, such as distributed processing, low latency, fault tolerance, greater scalability and enhanced security and privacy. These benefits are paramount for critical applications that require real-time processing, increased reliability or mobility support.
As we know, the Internet of Things (IoT) is revolutionizing companies by connecting all of their assets to operating systems through applications. Most IoT applications can be grouped around four types of functions: sensing, communication, computing, and actuation.
A single device does not usually support all the capabilities, so until now most systems used end devices to sense the environment, communication and network responsibilities were assumed by gateways, and computing was usually performed in a centralized cloud-like server, that sent the information generated, during processing to selected devices that later acted as executors.
However, this centralized computing model is not efficient for compute-intensive and time-critical applications such as Energy and Grid Operators, the Water Industry as well as companies with the critical assets for instance.
If we look into Industrial IoT, a study from Juniper Research has found that the global number of Industrial IoT connections will increase from 17.7 billion in 2020 to 36.8 billion in 2025. As the number of devices increases, so does the volume of data and the importance of generating useful information.
Computing is an important part of Industrial IoT, as it leads to the generation of new knowledge, which is used to optimize industrial processes much more intelligently. A good example of the latter, is the new intelligent industrial processes that have evolved to the point where they can understand the environment and act accordingly.
This new scenar of connected objects has led to the emergence of new management systems for edge devices, also known as edge nodes, applications, and data, such as Barbara's Edge Platform which enables enable real-time response and management of highly critical assets in highly distributed environments.
Decision-making in these scenarios is done within the network by sharing data and computation between devices instead of sending all data to a server. This new distributed system is changing the way centralized computing is done, where edge devices were only used for collecting and sending data to a server for processing.
Now with Edge Computing Platforms like Barbara´s Industrial Edge edge nodes are used to enable distributed intelligence in the Industrial IoT. Not only Edge Mesh is the new paradigm for distributed intelligence, but it also enables "self-healing" capability, so that if a node fails in communication it can reroute around it, allowing the network to continue operating, and thus, increasing reliability.
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How can the Edge Mesh model of distributed and cooperative computing respond to cloud problems? The cloud computing model presents 4 main problems: latency issues, security, privacy, and scalability.
Distributed Computing and Edge Computing are born to address the problems of latency, mobility, security, and the bandwidth bottleneck of traditional cloud computing. However, both have their benefits and drawbacks, but can work in a complementary way with each other to satisfy the multiple requirements of today's industrial applications.
A new model is then imposed, that aims to decompose applications into microservices and use resources both at the edge and in the cloud to alternatively satisfy the requirements of different applications.
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A fully distributed model involves a huge management effort. The diversity of IoT devices and applications makes it almost impossible for a single model to satisfy all application requirements. This is solved by the Edge Mesh model that involves the integration of different systems.
Data interoperability is key for enabling distributed intelligence as we face distributed systems with synchronization, consensus, cooperation, heterogeneity of devices, and application issues.
Furthermore, In the industrial world, there are no fully pervasive communications protocols or common data structures. It is therefore important that an edge computing mesh network deployment is based on open technologies, ideally standard or widely used by industry, that allow effective integration and evolution of different parts with the deployed infrastructure. Monolithic, closed solutions with high integration costs should be avoided.
The benefits of Edge Mesh such as distributed processing, fault tolerance, and low latency, have a great impact on companies with critical assets that are dispersed and generate data at high frequencies. One example is the use of Mesh Network of Edge Computing for Electrical Transformer Substations scattered across the country.
When it comes to digitizing an Electrical Substation, several questions emerge:
In this environment, Edge Computing allows the integration of equipment, sensors, and actuators to compute data in real-time in a distributed manner, and is a better alternative to Cloud Computing.
By implementing Edge Computing, Transformation Centers can process data locally from different sources, and make autonomous decisions quickly, without the need to go through centralized systems such as SCADA or Cloud. This, in the medium and low voltage grid, implies an immense leap in the operation and maintenance possibilities, with a great impact on improving costs, response times, scalability, continuity and reliability in the new Smart Grid paradigm.
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