Act locally, connect globally with IoT and edge computing

There are places so remote, so harsh that humans can’t safely explore them (for example, hundreds of miles below the earth, areas that experience extreme temperatures, or on other planets). These places might have important data that could help us better understand earth and its history, as well as life on other planets. But they usually have little to no internet connection, making the challenge of exploring environments inhospitable for humans seem even more impossible.

How do we push the boundaries of what’s possible?

The answer to this question is actually on your phone, your smartwatch, and billions of other places on earth—it’s the Internet of Things (IoT). Connected devices allow us to extend our senses to remote locations, such as a robot carrying out work on Mars or monitoring remote oil wells.

This is the exciting future for IoT, and it’s closer than you think. Already, IoT is delivering deep and precise insights to improve virtually every aspect of our lives. Here’s a few examples:

  • IoT sensors in a factory can monitor and predict equipment failure before an accident.
  • Healthcare providers can provide remote monitoring of patient health—improving patient care.
  • Security cameras can better protect people with real-time notifications.

Because these IoT devices are powered by microprocessors or microcontrollers that have limited processing power and memory, they often rely heavily on AWS and the cloud for processing, analytics, storage, and machine learning. But as the number of IoT devices and use cases grow, people are finding that managing these connected devices presents new challenges. Sometimes an internet connection is weak or not available at all, as is often the case in remote locations. For some applications, a trip to the cloud and back isn’t possible because of latency requirements (for example, an autonomous car interpreting its environment in real time).

There’s also the cost to send data to the cloud to consider. Some sensors, like those in factories, are collecting an incredible amount of data and sending it all to the cloud could get expensive. These barriers are driving some people to the edge—literally.

In this post, I want to talk about edge computing, the power to have compute resources and decision-making capabilities in disparate locations, often with intermittent or no connectivity to the cloud. In other words, process the data closer to where it’s created.