Edge computing is designed to enhance the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and provides many potential advantages for users. Edge computing speeds up data flow and extends knowledge of what's happening on a network. It also improves data reliability by making device data the one source of truth. And there's less latency. If there are local human-machine interfaces (HMIs), there's still local access and control even if network connectivity is lost to help prevent against losing data. Edge devices are more powerful, easier to use, and less expensive, making it very affordable to put powerful computers at the edge of a network.
Getting started with edge computing
With all the edge products on the market, there are a lot of choices for a company to make.
Think about the entire system and how the edge devices are going to fit into the larger architecture. Find the devices that work best for the system and the company's overall goals.
Ask specific questions about the devices. How can they be maintained and upgraded? Can the data be moved to a central location? Can the devices be used for other functions at the edge?
The architecture should allow plug-and-play functionality. Individual components should be replaceable without affecting the whole system. Older architecture requiring configurations in multiple places inhibits the ability to make future changes.
Many edge devices work well with message queuing telemetry transport (MQTT), which is the perfect messaging protocol for the IIoT. MQTT was designed about 20 years ago for the industrial space. In recent years, it has become more popular because of its low bandwidth requirements and publish/subscribe model.
MQTT reports by exception and communicates data only when there's a change. It also makes data available for applications such as supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), enterprise resource planning (ERP), information technology (IT), business intelligence, and more. MQTT provides high availability and scalability.
Results with edge computing
Edge computing is expanding along with the IIoT because it provides numerous benefits. For example, an oil and gas pipeline used traditional polling, which usually takes 30-45 minutes to hear back from all the remote locations. If operators pressed a button to open a valve, they'd have to wait 15 minutes to get confirmation the valve had opened. After installing edge devices and MQTT, the process now takes less than 15 seconds.
Edge devices were introduced to bring legacy data into an architecture and remove polling from the network to provide a better, faster solution. The simple design plus the ability to plug-and-play functionality make edge devices easy to use.
Travis Cox is co-director of sales engineering at Inductive Automation. Edited by Emily Guenther, associate content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media.
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For a more detailed look at cloud / edge network architectures, read our white paper, Demystifying the Cloud for Manufacturers.
To learn more, visit: https://inductiveautomation.com/ignition/edge.
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