In a white paper titled Fog Computing and the Internet of Things: Extend the Cloud to Where the Things Are, Cisco presents, “The Internet of Things (IoT) is generating an unprecedented volume and variety of data. But by the time the data makes its way to the cloud for analysis, the opportunity to act on it might be gone."
“In industries such as manufacturing, oil and gas, utilities, transportation, mining, and the public sector, faster response time can improve output, boost service levels, and increase safety.”
In fog networking or fog computing, the data, compute, storage, and applications are moved closer to the edge. The current cloud computing infrastructure is too centralized and slow to handle the volume, velocity, and variety of IoT data.
Fog computing will also alleviate network traffic as more of the compute and storage is done closer to where it is needed. Think about your smartphone. The Samsung Galaxy S6 has five times the computing power of the Playstation 2s. According to ZME Science, “Put simply, the iPhone 6’s clock is 32,600 times faster than the best Apollo era computers and could perform instructions 120,000,000 times faster.” We put all that computing power in edge devices like gaming consoles and smartphones.
When you use Google Now, Amazon Alexa, or Google Translate, all of the instructions are sent to a cloud computer to be analyzed and acted upon – and then sent back to your device. While it happens fast, most people have had outages where the receiving platform – Google, Amazon, et al – just doesn’t answer. That could be disastrous if the application involved a self-driving car or a safety sensor.
Self-driving cars are communicating with the vehicles, roads, and weather while analyzing traffic and weather conditions. The car needs to analyze data in a hurry, locally, despite communicating with a central server.
Sensors in manufacturing or on oil wells provide companies with real-time views of the location via a connection to a cloud server. Yet, for safety, this equipment must be able to analyze data locally too.
Gartner Inc. says “6.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2016, up 30 percent from 2015, and will reach 20.8 billion by 2020. In 2016, 5.5 million new things will get connected every day.” That is a lot of traffic and data.
As more devices connect, the Internet of Things will need to pull together a solution where the computing power is local despite connection to a cloud server. Our industry time and again spotlights technology like WebRTC or IoT. It then pushes out products to the marketplace. Yet these products most often are not whole solutions. In the IoT world, systems integrators are combining sensors, connection, analysis, and data storage along with monitoring and more to provide a whole solution for the customer.
For example, as the United States rebuilds bridges and roads, sensors will likely be installed on many of them to monitor traffic; to collect tolls; for emergency response and safety; and for determination of repair or degradation of the bridge or road. Third-party firms are providing the sensors, connectivity, analysis, monitoring, and reporting for the government agencies. These firms may also be involved in the RFQ process for repairs as a project manager or purchasing agent for the government, while taking a cut of the project budget to assist in the payment of services.
The supply chain for IoT is segmented by hardware (sensors, devices); connectivity (Wi-Fi, 4G); computing and analysis (brains and algorithms); installation; monitoring; and maintenance. Channel partners interested in taking advantage of the IoT explosion will do well to put this supply chain together as a turnkey solution. People eat cake, not the ingredients.
IoT isn’t just about connectivity. Selling bandwidth is easy but is becoming less profitable for the channel partners. Selling solutions including connectivity and the fog or edge computing will be where the big dollars are. Sell the cake. Or sell Pi, Raspberry Pi, the $5 computing kit.