IoT, Edge Computing, and Digitalization in Healthcare

IoT, Edge Computing, and Digitalization in Healthcare

COVID-19 accelerated the digitization of healthcare, contributing to growing IoT adoption and exploding health data volumes. This digital transformation helps to improve efficiency and reduce costs, while opening new avenues for enhanced patient experience and well-being. Simultaneously, growing data privacy concerns, increasing costs, and heavier regulatory requirements are challenging the use of cloud computing to manage this data. A megashift to Edge Computing is addressing these challenges enabling a faster, safer and more reliable digital healthcare infrastructure.

The digital healthcare market 2020 and beyond, a high speed revolution

Prior to COVID, growth in digital health adoption stalled. [1] However, digitalization in the healthcare industry has sky-rocketed since the start of the pandemic. Reflecting this market turnaround, the third quarter of 2020 was a record year for investments in healthcare companies. [2] A trend that will continue in the next years, as analysts predict rapid growth across digital healthcare market sectors:

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Drivers of growth and change in digital healthcare

Digital Healthcare Growth Driver 1: COVID

The COVID pandemic accelerated the digitization of healthcare, pushing doctors, patients – and their data – to the virtual world. [8] The year 2020 marks the tipping point for digital healthcare offerings. With healthcare providers and patients forced to use digital means, adoption barriers have been removed for good. Indeed, a recent study from Forrester indicates that 36% of adults found that the care they received virtually was just as effective as what they would have received in person, and over 30% of adults will seek virtual care again in the future. [9]

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Over 30% of adults will seek
virtual care again in the future

Digital Healthcare Growth Driver 2: Growing Medical IoT Device Adoption

There will be a projected 55 billion IoT devices by 2025. [10] Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) are hardware devices designed to process, collect, and/or transmit health related data via a network. IoMT devices are projected to make up 30% of the entire IoT device market by 2025. [11] According to Gartner, 79% of healthcare providers are already using IoT in their processes, [12] i.e. remote health monitoring via wearables, ingestible sensors, [13] disinfection robots, [14] or closed-loop insulin delivery systems.15 IoMT devices increase safety and efficiency in healthcare, and future technical applications, like smart ambulances or augmented reality glasses that assist during surgery, are limitless.

IoMT devices are projected to make up
30% of the IoT device market by 2025

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Digital Healthcare Growth Driver 3: The Explosion of Health Data

Growing IoMT adoption is subsequently driving a rapid increase in the amount of collected health data. According to an IDC study, healthcare data is growing exponentially projected 36% CAGR through 2025; health data is expected to eclipse data volumes from sectors like manufacturing, financial services, and media. [16] The increase in healthcare data opens up new opportunities to apply technology to improve healthcare like e.g. big data analysis, AI and ML. In fact, the healthcare analytics market is expected to reach $84.2 billion by 2027 with a 26% CAGR. [17]

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Healthcare data will experience a
36% CAGR through 2025

Digital Healthcare Growth Driver 4: Technological innovations: Edge Computing, AI, and VR

Big health data sets are being used to revolutionize healthcare, bringing new insights into fields like oncology,18 and improving patient experience, care, and diagnosis: “Taken together, big data will facilitate healthcare by introducing prediction of epidemics (in relation to population health), providing early warnings of disease conditions, and helping in the discovery of novel biomarkers and intelligent therapeutic intervention strategies for an improved quality of life.” [19] In a November 2020 survey from Intel, 84% of healthcare providers shared that Artificial Intelligence deployments had occurred or were planned in their clinical workflow, an increase from 37% in 2018. This is unsurprising, as AI technologies are predicted to save the healthcare industry up to $150 billion per year, by answering “20 percent of
unmet clinical demand.” [20]

Augmented and Virtual Reality are also finding a place in healthcare settings. VR tools have been shown to reduce pain, [21] and are being used in therapy as a means to help patients overcome painful and traumatic experiences. Experts expect a realm of future AR applications in the operating room, assisting doctors during surgical procedures.

Current or planned AI deployments are at
84% in 2020, up from 37% in 2018

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Digital Healthcare Growth Driver 5: Underlying Social Megatrends

The global population is growing; global life expectancy is rising. Accordingly, by 2030 the world needs more energy, more food, more water. Explosive population growth in some areas versus declines in others contributes to shifts in economic power, resource allocation, societal habits and norms. Many Western populations are aging rapidly. E.g. in America, the number of people 65+ is expected to nearly double to 72.1 million by 2034. Because the population is shrinking at the same time, elder care is a growing challenge and researchers are looking to robots to solve it. [22]

Health megatrends focus not only on the prevention of disease, but also on the perception of wellness, and new forms of living and working. Over the coming decade more resources will be spent on health and longevity, leading to artificially and technologically enhanced human capabilities. More lifestyle-related disorders and diseases are expected to emerge in the future. [22]

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A focus on health and longevity will
lead to artificial & tech enhanced
human capabilities

The Challenges of Healthtech

Along with more data, more devices and more opportunity also comes more
responsibility and more costs for healthcare providers.

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Data Volume and Availability With the growing number of digital healthcare
and medical devices, a dazzling volume of health data is created and collected across many different channels. It will be vital for the healthcare industry to reliably synchronize and combine data across devices and channels. [23] Due to the sheer volume, reliable collection and analysis of this data is a major challenge. After it’s been processed, data needs to be available on demand, i.e. in emergency situations that require reliable, fast, available data.

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Reliability, Privacy, and Data Security are extremely important in health
technology; 70% of healthcare consumers are concerned about data privacy. [24] Data use is often governed by increasingly strict national regulation, i.e. HIPAA (USA) and / or GDPR (Europe). [25] With the number of cyber-attacks in the healthcare industry on the rise, [26] healthcare professionals must be even more diligent about the storage and processing of data. In addition, healthtech must be extremely well vetted; failures can cost lives – typical “banana products”, which ripen with the customers, are a no-go.

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IT Costs Medical devices contribute a large portion to healthcare budgets.
However as data volumes grow, data costs will also become a relevant cost
point. Sending all health data to the cloud to be stored and processed is not
only slow and insecure, it is also extremely costly. To curb mobile network and
cloud costs, much health data can be stored and processed at the edge, on
local devices, with only necessary data being synced to a cloud or central
server. By building resilient data architecture now, healthcare providers (e.g.
hospitals, clinics, research centers) can avoid future costs and headache.

Edge Computing is Integral to Data-driven Healthcare Ecosystems

With big data volumes, industries like healthcare need to seek out resilient information architectures to accommodate growing numbers of data and devices. To build resilient and secure digital infrastructure, healthcare providers will need to utilize both cloud computing and edge computing models, exploiting the strengths of both systems.

Cloud & Edge: What’s the Difference?

Cloud Computing information is sent to a centralized data center, to be stored, processed and sent back to the edge. This causes latency and higher risk of data breaches. Centralized data is useful for large scale data analysis and the distribution of data between i.e. hospitals and doctors’ offices.

Edge Computing Data is stored and processed on or near the device it was created on. Edge Computing works without an internet connection, and thus is reliable and robust in any scenario. It is ideal for time sensitive data (real time), and improved data privacy and security.

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Edge Computing contributes to resilient and secure healthcare data systems

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Transforming Healthcare with Edge Computing

Use Case: Secure and Up to Date Digital Record Keeping in Doctors Offices

For private doctors offices, embracing digitalization comes with different hurdles than larger healthcare providers. Often, offices do not keep a dedicated IT professional on staff, and must find digital solutions that serve their needs, while allowing them to comply with ever-increasing data regulations. As an industry used to legislative challenges, GPs know that sensitive patient data must be handled with care.

Solution providers serving private doctors offices are using edge databases to help keep patient data secure. An edge database allows private GPs to collect and store digital data locally. In newer practice setups, doctors use tablets, like iPads, throughout their practice to collect and track patient data, take notes and improve flexibility. This patient data should not be sent or stored in a central cloud server as this increases the risk of data breaches and opens up regulatory challenges. In a cloud-centered set up, the doctor also always needs to rely on a constant internet connection being available, making this also a matter of data availability

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Accordingly, the patient data is stored locally, on the iPads, accessible only by the doctor treating the patient. Some of the data is synchronized to a local, in-office computer at the front desk for billing and administration. Other data is only synchronized for backup purposes and encrypted. Such a setup also allows synchronizing data between iPads, enabling doctors to share data in an instant.

Use Case: Connected Ambulances – Real Time Edge Data from Home to Hospital

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Between an incidence location and the hospital, a lot can happen. What if everything that happened in the ambulance was reliably and securely tracked and shared with the hospital, seamlessly? Already there are trials underway using 5G technology to stream real time data to hospitals, [27] and allowing ambulance medics to access patient data while in transit. [28] Looking to the future, Edge Computing will enable digital healthcare applications to function in realtime and reliably anywhere and anytime, e.g. a moving ambulance, in the tunnel, or a remote area, enabling ambulance teams and doctors to give the best treatment instantly / on-site, while using available bandwidth and networks when available to seamlessly synchronize the relevant information to the relevant healthcare units, e.g. the next hospital. This will decrease friction, enhance operational processes, and improve time to treatment.

Digital Healthcare: Key Take-Aways

Digital healthcare is a fast-growing industry; more data and devices alongside new tech are empowering rapid advances. Finding ways to utilize growing healthcare data, while ensuring data privacy, security and availability are key challenges ahead for healthcare providers. The healthcare industry must find the right mix of technologies to manage this data, utilizing cloud for global data exchange and big data analytics, while embracing Edge Computing for it’s speed, security, and resilience.

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Underutilized data plays a major role in health-tech innovation, [29] data is the lifeline of future healthcare offerings; however, there is still much work to be done to improve the collection, management and analysis of this data.

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It’s all about data availability. Either in emergency situations, or simply to provide a smooth patient experience, data needs to be fast, reliable, and available: when you need it where you need it.

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Edge computing alongside other developing technologies like 5G, Augmented and Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning will empower a new and powerful digital healthcare ecosystem.

ObjectBox provides edge data software, to empower scalable and resilient digital innovation
on the edge in healthcare, automotive, and manufacturing. ObjectBox’ edge database and
data synchronization solution is 10x faster than any alternative, and empowers applications
that respond in real-time (low-latency), work offline without a connection to the cloud,
reduce energy needs, keep data secure, and lower mobile network and cloud costs.

Sources
1. https://www.accenture.com/us-en/insights/health/leaders-make-recent-digital-health-gains-last
2. https://www.cbinsights.com/research-state-of-healthcare-q3-2020
3. https://www.accenture.com/us-en/insight-artificial-intelligence-healthcare%C2%A0
4. https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/wearable-medical-devices-market
5. https://www.marketsandmarkets.com/PressReleases/iot-healthcare.asp
6. https://www.grandviewresearch.com/press-release/global-mhealth-app-market
7. https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2020/05/23/2037920/0/en/Global-Digital-Health-Market-was-Valued-at-USD-111-4-billion-in-2019-and-is-Expected-to-Reach-USD-510-4-billion-by-2025-Observing-a-CAGRof-29-0-during-2020-2025-VynZ-Research.html
8. https://www.sciencemag.org/features/2020/11/telemedicine-takes-center-stage-era-covid-19
9. https://go.forrester.com/blogs/will-virtual-care-stand-the-test-of-time-if-youre-asking-the-question-its-time-tocatch-up/
10. https://knowledge4policy.ec.europa.eu/foresight/topic/accelerating-technological-change-hyperconnectivity/hyperconnectivity-iot-digitalisation_en
11. https://mobidev.biz/blog/technology-trends-healthcare-digital-transformation
12. https://www.computerworld.com/article/3529427/how-iot-is-becoming-the-pulse-of-healthcare.html
https://www.gartner.com/en/documents/3970072
13. https://science.sciencemag.org/content/360/6391/915
14. http://emag.medicalexpo.com/disinfection-robots-against-covid-19/
15. https://www.theverge.com/2019/12/13/21020811/fda-closed-loop-insulin-system-software-diabetes-tandemcontrol-iq
16. https://www.seagate.com/files/www-content/our-story/trends/files/idc-seagate-dataage-whitepaper.pdf
17. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/healthcare-analytics-market-worth-84-2-billion-by-2027–growingat-a-cagr-of-26-from-2020–pre-and-post-covid-19-market-opportunity-analysis-and-industry-forecasts-bymeticulous-research-301117822.html
18. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41437-020-0303-2
19. June 2019, https://journalofbigdata.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s40537-019-0217-0
20. https://www2.stardust-testing.com/en/the-digital-transformation-trends-and-challenges-in-healthcare
21. https://www.geekwire.com/2018/snowworld-melts-away-pain-burn-patients-using-virtual-reality-snowballs/
22. https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/government-public-services/assets/five-megatrends-implications.pdf
23. https://www2.stardust-testing.com/en/the-digital-transformation-trends-and-challenges-in-healthcare
24. https://www.accenture.com/_acnmedia/PDF-133/Accenture-Digital-Health-Tech-Vision-2020.pdf#zoom=40
25. https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=99b83b76-3f2f-4b23-a5c3-30ad576af369
26. https://www.medicaleconomics.com/view/cyberattack-threat-to-health-care-providers-on-the-rise
https://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/fbi-hhs-warn-increased-and-imminent-cyber-threat-hospitals
https://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2020/11/13/health-care-cyberattacks-covid-19-paris-peace-forum/
27. https://www.vodafone.co.uk/business/5g-for-business/5g-customer-stories/connected-ambulance
28. https://www.digitalhealth.net/2019/04/london-ambulance-access-patient-data/
29. https://news.crunchbase.com/news/for-health-tech-startups-data-is-their-lifeline-now-more-than-ever/

What is an Edge Database, and why do you need one?

What is an Edge Database, and why do you need one?

Edge Databases – from trends to use cases

With the megashift from Cloud Computing to the Edge, a lack of core technologies supporting the needs of the decentralized Edge Computing topology became apparent. Edge Databases are a new type of database addressing these need. To implement edge solutions, developers need fast local data persistence and decentralized data flows (Data Sync). Edge Databases solve these core edge functionalities out-of-the-box, making it easy for application developers to implement edge solutions quickly. 

Table of Contents

The trends driving the megashift to decentralized Edge Computing
Urgently needed: Software infrastructure for edge computing
What is an edge database?
When do you need an edge database?
Edge Database Use Case Example in Manufacturing
Edge Database Outlook  

The trends driving the megashift to decentralized Edge Computing

By 2025, 30+ billion IoT devices will be creating ~4.6 trillion GB of data per day. The growing numbers of devices and data volume, variety, and velocity, as well as bandwidth infrastructure limitations, make it infeasible to store and process all data in a centralized cloud. On top, new use cases come with new requirements, a centralized cloud infrastructure cannot meet. For example, soft and hard response rate requirements, offline-functionality, and security and data protection regulations.

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These trends accelerate the shift away from centralized cloud computing to a decentralized edge computing topology. Edge computing refers to decentralized data processing at the “edge” of the network. For example, in a car, on a machine, on a smartphone, or in a building. Hardware specifications do not capture the definition of an “edge device”. The crucial point is rather the decentralized use of data at, or as close as possible to, the data source.

Edge computing itself is not a technology but a topology, and according to McKinsey, one of the top growing trends in tech in 2021. The technologies needed to implement the edge computing topology are at this moment still inadequate. More specifically, there is a gap in basic “core” edge technologies, so-called “software infrastructure”. This gap is one of the main reasons for the failure of edge projects.

Needed: Software infrastructure for Edge Computing

With computing shifting to the edge of the network, the needs of this decentralized topology become clear:
hugh performance db

Need for fast local data storage

→ i.e. a machine on the factory floor collects data on stiffness, friction, pressure points. There is limited space on the device, and typically no connection to the Internet. Even with an Internet connection, high data rates quickly push the available bandwidth, as well as associated networking / cloud costs, to the limit. To be able to use this data, it must be persisted in a structured manner at the edge, e.g. stored locally in a database.

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Need for reliable on-device data flows

→ i.e. the car is an edge device consisting of many control units. Therefore, data must be stored on multiple control units. In order to access and use the data within several of the control units of the car, the data must be selectively synchronized between the devices. A centralized structure and thus a single point of failure is unthinkable.

Need for edge-to-edge-to-cloud data flows

→ i.e. in a manufacturing hall: Typically, you will find any number of diverse devices from sensors to brownfield to greenfield devices, and no internet connectivity. At the same time, there are diverse employee devices such as tablets or smartphones, as well as central PCs, and a cloud. To extract value from the data, it must be available in raw, aggregated, or summary form, in different places. This means it needs to be synchronized efficiently and selectively, with possible conflicts resolved.

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Need for flexible edge data management

→ e.g. with the rise of IoT, time-series data have become common. However, time series data alone is usually not sufficient, and needs to be combined with other data structures (like objects) to add value. At the same time, a push to standardize data formats in industries (e.g. VSS in automotive or Umati in Industrial IoT) requires that the database supports flexible data structures.

Developing solutions without software infrastructure on an individual level is possible, but has many drawbacks:

Custom in-house implementations are cumbersome, slow, costly, and typically scale poorly. Oftentimes, applications or certain feature sets become unfeasible to deliver because of the lack of core software infrastructure. Legacy code and individual workarounds create problems over the lifetime of a product. Instead of a thriving ecosystem, only a few big players are able to implement edge solutions. Innovation and creativity are limited. An edge database is part of the solution and enables the entire edge ecosystem to build edge applications faster, cheaper and more efficiently.

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What is an edge database?

An edge database is a new type of database specifically tailored to the unique requirements of the Edge Computing topology. An edge database has specific features that make it easy for application developers to focus on value creation. It remove the burden of implementing underlying functionalities for secure storage and the decentralized synchronization of data.

First, an edge database is optimized for resource efficiency (CPU, memory, …) and performance on resource-constrained devices (embedded devices, IoT, mobile). It has a small footprint of a few megabytes. Traditional databases such as MySQL or MongoDB are too large and cumbersome for typical edge devices, and unsuitable for computing at the edge.  

An edge device without data flows to/from other devices is just a data island with very limited utility. Accordingly, an edge database must support the management of decentralized data flows. There is no more efficient way than at the database level. This includes a range of conflict resolution strategies due to the decentralized and multi-directional structure of the Edge.

Data security and protection is an increasingly important issue and can quickly become a showstopper for Edge projects. Edge database need to ensure that data is secured in every state (at rest, in transit, in use).

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When do you need an edge database?

Most IoT applications need to store and synchronize data. An edge database is always useful when functions / applications are planned that:

  • should work offline and independent of an internet connection
  • need to guarantee fast response times
  • work with a lot of, possibly high-frequency data
  • need to serve many devices at the same time
  • need historical data

In addition, developers also often decide to use an edge database to save time and nerves, or to be able to react quickly and flexibly to future requirements.

Edge Database Use Case Example in Manufacturing

Today, you can find everything from low-frequency brownfield devices to high-frequency greenfield devices on a factory floor. As a rule, the machine controllers in use are not designed to store or transmit data. They usually lack not only the functionality, but also the resources to support this. Therefore, additional edge devices are often needed to collect, analyze and interpret the huge amounts of data that each machine produces on site. For such an edge device, rapid data persistence and ingestion, and efficient data flow from edge-to-edge and edge-to-cloud are at the heart of value creation. The clear separation of machine control and edge data processing unit ensures that there is no risk of unintentional interference with the machine controller. An edge device with a powerful edge database can support multiple use cases on the shop floor today:

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1. Operational efficiency

Process optimization along the line to increase quality and reduce damage. When the first machine in a production line uses a new batch of material, i.e. in sheet metal processing, one of the first steps is to cut a sheet to the required size. At this stage, the machine can already detect the differences in the metal compared to a previous batch (deviations are allowed within the DIN standard). With an Edge device this data can be evaluated, and the relevant information passed on to the next machine. With this data machines further down the line can avoid damage / breakpoints of the material.

2. Condition monitoring

Continuous machine condition monitoring reduces downtime and increases maintenance efficiency. A constant stream of high-frequency machine data is compared against the fingerprint of the machine. Any slight deviation is immediately detected and reported. Catching deviations early reduces down-times and costly repairs.

3. Historical Data

Historical data is stored for learning and training to optimize the production line. With an edge database, the data is persisted and thus available in the event of faulty behavior. In case of an error, the data preceding the incident can be analyzed and used to find the causes and predict, or even avoid, such an error in the future. Chances are that “fuzzy expert knowledge” already available at the production site can be translated into deterministic rules when tested with these data sets.

Edge Database and the edge ecosystem – an outlook

Edge computing brings many advantages, and enables many applications and functionalities that can only be realized by computing on the edge. Up to now, however, only a few (usually large) players have been able to create value in edge computing projects, and thus gain competitive advantages. One reason is the lack of basic software for the edge. A thriving edge ecosystem requires edge software infrastructure that solves the basic recurring requirements of edge projects. Edge databases are an important building block on the way to such an ecosystem.

Why database performance creates business value

Why database performance creates business value

“Why does database performance matter?” “What is the business value of database speed?” “Why should I care about the performance of a database?”

Why database performance matters in a nutshell

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Make Faster Decisions

Database speed is the key to compute more data faster and make data-based decisions quickly. Faster decision-making drives business value.

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Save Resources & Costs

Database speed translates into resource efficiency. Saving resources (like battery, CPU, memory) saves money and reduces waste.

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Better UX & Response Rates

Database speed affects end user response rates significantly – smooth and fast user experiences keep people happy and more productive.

As a developer, it seems clear that database performance matters. At the very least, a fast database that gives you out-of-the-box speed saves time and nerves during development. Any piece of the tech stack that works super-fast makes a developer’s job easier. But there is more to it. Learn, why and how database performance impacts business value and get ideas on how to quantify this for your business case.

Data should be available when need where needed

We all dream of a future transformed by data. Cars that drive themselves to be repaired before a failure occurs. Fridges that are restocked while we are at work. Reducing resource waste to an absolute minimum. Building sustainable cities and communities.[1] It is truly amazing what is possible today…

database performance business value

Then reality hits: Before you can implement amazing solutions to make the world a better place for everyone, someone needs to solve the technical challenges, including hidden requirements. For example: you need the necessary data, and you need it available when needed where needed. This often isn’t that simple. Data persistence, database speed, and data synchronization are typical non-functional or “hidden” requirements. These are prerequisite technologies to allow the application to access, process and possibly depict the data required to answer a request (from another application or from a user), and thus enable the functionalities /  features. All in all, this is a pretty fundamental requirement. And it pays off to build your app on top of a solid foundation. Because, if you built your application on a solid foundation, every feature you dream up, no matter when,  and any next feature will be easier and faster to implement. 

Functional and non-functional requirements – the hidden challenges of your IoT project

IoT project hidden challenge

While you need data in any application, most often no one will write down where and how to handle it  as a user story or requirement. As opposed to features, e.g. “being able to search for names in the address book”, data persistence, database speed, and often even data synchronization are “hidden requirements”. Data is just expected to be available where needed when needed. Whether  the data you need really will be available when you need it, depends strongly on the database the application is using and and where this database runs. On top, the mechanisms you employ to exchange data between different devices (end devices, servers, ….) matter.

Hidden requirements are one of the major reasons why the Industry 4.0 dream is still in many respects a dream and not a reality – in Europe at least. Despite it being a topic for more than 10 years. [2]

Database performance 

What is a database?

A database is a piece of software that allows the storage and systematic use of digital information. A database typically allows developers to store, access, search, update, query, and otherwise manipulate data in the database via a developer language or API. These types of operations are done within an application, in the background, typically hidden from end users. Most applications need a database as part of their technology stack.

What is database performance?

We like and therefore use the following definition from Craig Mullins (2002): “Database performance can be defined as the optimization of resource use to increase throughput and minimize contention, enabling the largest possible workload to be processed.” [3]

Why does it matter if the database runs on the edge or in the cloud?

An edge database holds data on the (end) devices, where the data is used – and typically additionally sends some parts of the data to a central place like an on-premise server or the cloud. As opposed to this, a server / cloud-based database holds all data on the server / in the cloud. Where the data sits, determines from where, when and how it can be accessed. If all data is on a central server or the cloud, the prerequisite to accessing this data is a working network connection.

Online

Offline

It follows that edge applications are based upon a distributed computing paradigm, allowing edge devices to be autonomous. On the other hand, cloud-based applications are based on the centralized computing paradigm, where one central instance is in charge, with all other devices being dependent upon this central instance. This significantly affects the response time of the application, the availability of the application, and last not least the bandwidth needed for the application, which also translates into cloud costs.

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Location matters: while a fast database gives you fast response times, if the database sits in the cloud and needs to be called from edge devices, you need to factor in  the duration it takes to request the data and get a response. And with any networking you cannot guarantee response times or ensure it is always available. While this is not the database performance itself, it highly affects application performance. 

The impact of database performance on your business

Database performance matters. Whether your solution needs the speed, because of the necessity to re-act in (near) realtime, or to keep your users (customers, employees, …) happy, productive, buying, or just to save costs for stronger edge hardware and the cloud. “Considering that even a single moment of latency or downtime can cost companies thousands of dollars, the speed advantages of edge computing cannot be overlooked.” [4]

The necessity of database speed for mission-critical, security relevant, (near) real-time functionalities 

If you need near real time functionalities, every piece in the tech stack matters, but the database has a particularly strong impact on the response rates of your application. Consider autonomous driving, healthcare and security applications, or IIoT solutions for production lines: Any application supporting such a scenario needs to respond reliably with speed. “This is not the same as a lag in loading your favorite cat pictures. A lag in a moving vehicle scenario is a matter of life and death.” [5]

Accordingly, if end devices like cars, smartphones, health trackers, machines on the factory floor are involved, a purely cloud-based application is not an option. Data needs to be stored and used on the devices directly. Thus, an edge database is necessary. Ideally, an extremely fast one.

Examples of use cases with a need for database speed

Anything running on a car really needs to be highly ressource efficient and fast. Ressources on the car are highly limited and database speed translates into ressource-efficency. Autonomous driving capabilities are a special case requiring significant compute power to run the algorithms in real-time within the control unit of the car. As can be easily deducted from first-hand driving experience, during this kind of constant information processing and instantaneous decision making, every fraction of a millisecond counts. Information processing speed and reliability (guaranteed QoS parameters)  is of the essence for driver assistance and autonomous driving.

Moving to a purely monetary example, let’s consider roadside tolling. In roadside tolling, the edge devices on the side of the road need to process the information from a moving vehicle in order to identify the car, bill according to usage, and detect violators. Ideally, it even informs the car owner of the result. As the car is constantly moving and can be going fast, all of this needs to happen in a very short amount of time. A super fast database lookup on the edge is key to avoid money loss and deliver good customer service. 

For a final example,  let us look at an Industrial IoT (IIoT) application: Additive manufacturing. 3D printers use layering techniques with a variety of materials to quickly create custom designed parts. During the layering process, the controller needs to quickly and efficiently incorporate small changes in the environment (e.g. an increase in temperature) to ensure quality and accuracy of the part. Faster and more precise manufacturing is currently limited by the I/O throughput. With a fast database, the I/O throughput is higher, allowing for more complex and finite production.

In short: A superfast database is not a nice to-have, it is a must-have. The database speed a database brings out-of-the-box is critical for such an application.

 

The impact of database speed on Sales, Conversions, Retention (or at least, nerves) 

There is a reason Google forces companies to optimize their websites and mobile applications for performance: There is a wealth of research and evidence that suggests response rates of websites and mobile applications impact user behavior significantly.[6] Even more, there are several studies providing evidence that response rates impact actual buying behavior. [7] While there is less research on other digital applications like e.g. a desktop app or workplace software, some studies have shown that needing to work with slow applications decreases employee satisfaction and productivity. [8]

The impact of database speed on battery, CPU, hardware and related resources

Another hidden requirement typically is resource-efficiency with regards to CPU, RAM, Disc space and battery / electricity. For any application running in the cloud, these requirements are balanced in the backend as the cloud scales vertically. It “only” adds to cloud costs (and is a waste of energy – not to mention all the infrastructure / hardware enabling that waste). 

On the edge, you typically work with restricted devices, meaning you can only use the devices’ resources, which can be pretty limited. Therefore, inefficient applications can push a device to its limits, leading to e.g. slow response rates, crashes, and battery drain. Security is a very necessary cross-the-stack functionality that often impacts performance. While data that stays on the edge is challenging to hack, edge data needs to be protected just like data in the cloud.

How database performance impacts the business value of your IoT application

All applications on one device share the available hardware capabilities; resource allocation is managed by the operating system. Accordingly, the more resources an application or the database uses, the less resources are available for other uses. The faster a database executes its operations, the less CPU it uses, the less battery / electricity, and typically also memory. In practice that means there are more resources available on the device to run e.g. Edge AI or Edge ML applications.

database

From a business value perspective that means:

  • You can save on hardware costs (CPU, RAM, Disc, Memory, …): either do more on existing / chosen hardware, upgrade hardware later or choose smaller and thus less expensive hardware. 
  • You can save on energy and cloud costs: The more efficient, the less electricity, the less cloud costs. This can add up tremendously as projects scale.
  • You can add more features, deliver more functionalities, make your application more secure within a given environment. 
  • You can deliver a smooth, fast user experience, enabling applications that deliver in near-realtime. 

    In sum, it clearly impacts the cost structure and value you can deliver.
database performance business value

Database performance impacts business value, directly and indirectly

As projects scale in size and scope, hidden requirements like database performance often become clear. At scale, small issues like delayed data, or data volumes, become big headaches. Ideally, these sorts of requirements would be at the heart of the design stage of any project – and budgeted for at the beginning. The choice of database clearly has a huge impact on the business success of IoT applications.

[1] See https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/01/effect-technology-sustainability-sdgs-internet-things-iot/ for IoT impact on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)
[2] https://restart-project.eu/much-know-industry-4-0/
https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=13&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwiGidSA6trnAhVQY8AKHTpSDUIQFjAMegQICBAB&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.mdpi.com%2F2076-3387%2F9%2F3%2F71%2Fpdf&usg=AOvVaw3cx44OOMfNzJ_BJlCG8Gfj
[3] Database Administration: The Complete Guide to Practices and Procedures By Craig Mullins 2002
[4] https://www.vxchnge.com/blog/the-5-best-benefits-of-edge-computing
[5] https://www.zdnet.com/article/why-autonomous-vehicles-will-rely-on-edge-computing-and-not-the-cloud/
[6] https://developers.google.com/web/fundamentals/performance/why-performance-matters https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/intl/en-154/insights-inspiration/research-data/need-mobile-speed-how-mobile-latency-impacts-publisher-revenue/
https://www.machmetrics.com/speed-blog/how-does-page-load-time-affect-your-site-revenue
https://datadome.co/bot-management-protection/website-performance-how-to-increase-your-business-by-blocking-bots/
[7] https://developers.google.com/web/fundamentals/performance/why-performance-matters
https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/intl/en-154/insights-inspiration/research-data/need-mobile-speed-how-mobile-latency-impacts-publisher-revenue/
https://www.machmetrics.com/speed-blog/how-does-page-load-time-affect-your-site-revenue
https://datadome.co/bot-management-protection/website-performance-how-to-increase-your-business-by-blocking-bots/
[8] https://drum.lib.umd.edu/handle/1903/1233
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01449290500196963

 

What is Data Synchronization + How to Keep Data in Sync

What is Data Synchronization + How to Keep Data in Sync

What is Data Sync / Data Synchronization in app development?

Data Synchronization (Sync) is the process of establishing consistency and consolidation of data between different devices. It is fundamental to most IT solutions, especially in IoT and Mobile. Data Sync entails the continuous harmonization of data over time and typically is a complex, non-trivial process. Even corporates struggle with its implementation and had to roll back Data Sync solutions due to technical challenges. 

The question Data Sync answers is

phone-data-sync-with-machine-payment-automatic-data

How do you keep data sets from two (or more) data stores / databases – separated by space and time – mirrored with one another as closely as possible, in the most efficient way?

Data Sync challenges include asynchrony, conflicts, slow bandwidth, flaky networks, third-party applications, and file systems that have different semantics.

Data Sync versus Data Replication in Databases

sync-data-better-than-replication

Data replication is the process of storing the same data in several locations to prevent data loss and improve data availability and accessibility. Typically, data replication means that all data is fully mirrored / backed up / replicated on another instance (device/server). This way, all data is stored at least twice. Replication typically works in one direction only (unidirectional); there is no additional logic to it and no possibility of conflicts.

In contrast, Data Sync typically relates to a subset of the data (selection) and works in two directions (bi-directional). This adds a layer of complexity, because now conflicts can arise. Of course, if you select all data for synchronisation into one direction, it will yield the same result as replication. However, replication cannot replace synchronization.

Why do you need to keep data in sync?

Think about it – if clocks were not in sync, everyone would live on a different time. While I can see an upside to this, it would result in many inefficiencies as you could not rely on schedules. When business data is not in sync (up-to-date everywhere), it harms the efficiency of the organization due to:

  • Isolated data silos
  • Conflicting data / information states
  • Duplicate data / double effort
  • Outdated information states / incorrect data

In the end, the members of such an organization would not be able to communicate and collaborate efficiently with each other. They would instead be spending a lot of time on unnecessary work and “conflict resolution”. On top, management would miss an accurate overview and data-driven insights to prioritize and steer the company. The underlying mechanism that keeps data up-to-date across devices is a technical process called data synchronization (Sync). And while we expect these processes to “just work”, someone needs to implement and maintain them, which is a non-trivial task.

Growing data masses and shifts in data privacy requirements call for sensible usage of network bandwidth and the cloud. Edge computing with selective data synchronization is an effective way to manage which data is sent to the cloud, and which data stays on the device. Keeping data on the edge and synchronizing selective data sets effectively, reduces the data volume that is transferred via the network and stored in the cloud. Accordingly, this means lower mobile networking and cloud costs. On top, it also enables higher data security and data privacy, because it makes it easy to store personal and private data with the user. When data stays with the user, data ownership is clear too.

Unidirectional Data Replication

replication-data-sync-database

Bidirectional Data Synchronization

how-to-sync-data-what-is-data-sync

Out-of-the-box Sync magic: Syncing is hard

Almost every Mobile or IoT application needs to sync data, so every developer is aware of the basic concept and challenges. This is why many experienced developers appreciate out-of-the-box solutions. While JSON / REST offers a great concept to transfer data, there is more to Data Sync than what it looks like at a glance. Of course, the complexity of Sync varies widely depending on the use case. For example, the amount of data, data changes, synchronous / asynchronous sync, and number of devices (connections), and what kind of client-server or peer-to-peer setup is needed, all affect the complexity.

iceburg-building-data-synchronization

What looks easy in practice hides a complex bit of coding and opens a can of worms for testing. For an application to work seamlessly across devices – independent of the network, which can be offline, flaky, or only occasionally connected – an app developer must anticipate and handle a host of local and network failures to ensure data consistency. Moreover, for devices with restricted memory, battery and/or CPU resources (i.e. Mobile and IoT devices), resource sensitivity is also essential. Data storage and synchronization solutions must be both effective / efficient, and sustainable.

How to Keep Data in Sync Without the Headache?

Thankfully, there are out-of-the-box data synchronization solutions available on the market, which solve data syncing for developers. They fall broadly into two categories: cloud-dependent data synchronization, and independent, “edge” data synchronization. Cloud-based solutions, like Firebase, require a connection to the internet to function. Data is sent to and requested from the cloud constantly. Edge solutions, like ObjectBox, also offer “Offline Sync”: Data is stored in an efficient on-device database, synchronization on and between edge devices can be done continually without an Internet connection, and Dat Sync with a cloud or a backend that is not located on premise occurs once the device(s) goes online. Below, we summarize the most popular market offerings for data synchronization (offline and cloud based):

mongo-realm-logo

Couchbase

Couchbase is a Cloud DB, Edge DB and Sync offering that requires the use of Couchbase servers.

firebase-logo

Firebase

Firebase is a Backend as a Service (BaaS) offering from Google (acquired). Google offers it as a cloud hosted solution for mobile developers.

mongo-realm-logo

Mongo Realm

Realm was acquired by MongoDB in 2019; the Mongo Realm Sync solution is now in Alpha and available hosted with MongoDB.

mongo-realm-logo

ObjectBox

ObjectBox is a DB for any device, from restricted edge devices to servers, and offers an out-of-the-box Sync solution. ObjectBox enables self-hosting on-premise / in the cloud, as well as Offline Sync.

pasre-logo-comparison

Parse

Parse is a BaaS offering that Facebook acquired and shut down. Facebook open sourced the code. The GitHub repository is not officially maintained. You can host Parse yourself or use a Parse hosting service.

Data Sync, Edge Computing, and the Future of Data

There is a megashift happening in computing from centralized cloud computing to Edge Computing. Edge computing is a decentralized topology entailing storing and using data as close to the source of the data as possible, i.e. directly on edge devices. Accordingly, the market is growing rapidly with projections estimating continuing growth with a 34% CAGR for the next five years. The move from the cloud to the edge is strongly driven by new use cases and growing data masses Edge data persistence and Data Sync (managing decentralized data flows), especially “Offline Sync”, are the key technologies needed for Edge Computing. Using edge data persistence, data can be stored and processed on the edge. This means application always work, independent from a network connection, offline. Faster response times can be guaranteedWith Offline Sync, data can be synchronized between several edge devices in any location independant from an Internet connection. Once a connection becomes available, selected data can be synchronized with  a central server. By exchanging less data with the cloud or a central instance, data synchronization reduces the burden on the network. This brings down mobile network and cloud costs, and reduces the amount of energy used: a win-win-win solution. It also enables data privacy by design.

Why do we need Edge Computing for a sustainable future?

Why do we need Edge Computing for a sustainable future?

Centralized data centers consume a lot of energy, produce a lot of carbon emissions and cause significant electronic waste. While data centers are seeing a positive trend towards using green energy, an even more sustainable approach (alongside so-called “green data centers” [1]) is to cut unnecessary cloud traffic, central computation and storage as much as possible by shifting computation to the edge. Ideally, Edge Computing strategies use efficient technologies like ObjectBox to harness the power of already deployed available devices (like e.g. smartphones, machines, desktops, gateways), making the solution even more sustainable.

Why do Digitisation and IoT projects need to think about sustainability now?

Huge centralized data centres (cloud computing) have become a critical part of the infrastructure for a digitalized society. These large central cloud data centers produce a lot of carbon emissions, electric and electronic waste. [2] The share of global electricity used by data centres is already estimated to be around 1-3% [3] and data centers generate 2% of worldwide CO2 emissions (on par with the aviation industry). [4]

54% of which are caused by the cloud data centers of the big hyperscalers (Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Alibaba Cloud). [5] On top of this, providing and maintaining cloud infrastructure (manufacturing, shipping of hardware, buildings and lines) also consumes a huge amount of greenhouse gases [3] and produces a lot of abnormal waste (e.g. toxic coolants) at the end of life. [6]

sustainable edge computing

Bearing that in mind, the growth forecasts for digitization, IoT, and Mobile [7] are concerning. The steady increase in data processing, storage, and traffic in the future, comes with a huge electricity demand for this industry. [8] In fact, estimations expect the communications industry to use 20% of all the world’s electricity by 2025. [9]

sustainable edge computing

Shifting to green energy is a good step. However, a more effective and ultimately longer term solution requires looking at the current model of data storage, filtering, processing and transferal. By implementing Edge Computing, we can reduce the amount of useless and wasteful data traversing to and from the cloud as much as possible, thus reducing overall energy requirements in the long term.

What is Edge Computing?

While until recently 90 percent of enterprise data was sent to the cloud, this is changing rapidly. In fact, this number is dropping to only 25 percent in the next 3 years according to Gartner. By then, most of the data will be stored and used locally, on the device it was created on, e.g. on smartphones, cars, trains, machines, watches. This is called Edge Computing. Accordingly, edge devices need the same technology stack (just in a much smaller format) as a cloud server. This means: An operating system, a data storage / persistence layer (database), a networking layer, security functionalities etc. that run efficiently on restricted hardware.

As you can only use the devices’ resources, which can be pretty limited, inefficient applications can push a device to its limits, leading to slow response rates, crashes, and battery drain.

edge device architecture

EDGE DEVICE ARCHITECTURE

Edge Computing is much more than some simple data pre-processing, which takes advantage of only a small portion of the computing that is possible on the edge. An edge database is a prerequisite for meaningful Edge Computing. With an edge database, data can be stored and processed on the devices directly (the so called edge). Only useful data is sent to the server and saved there, reducing the networking traffic and computing power used in data centers tremendously, while also making use of the computing resources of devices which are already in use. This greatly reduces bandwidth and energy required by data centers. On top, edge computing also provides the flexibility to operate independent from an Internet connection, enables fast real time response rates, and cuts cloud costs.

Why is Edge Computing sustainable?

Edge Computing reduces network traffic and data center usage

With Edge Computing the amount of data traversing the network can be reduced greatly, freeing up bandwidth. Bandwidth is a measure of the quantity / size of data a network can transfer in a given time frame. Bandwidth is shared among users. Accordingly, the more data is supposed to be sent via the network at a given moment, the slower the network speed. Data on the edge is also much more likely to be useful and indeed used on the edge, in context of its environment. Instead of constantly sending data strems to the cloud, it therefore makes sense to work with the data on the edge and only send that data to the cloud that really is of use there (e.g. results, aggregated data etc.).

Edge computing is optimized for efficiency

Edge “data centres” are typically more efficient than cloud data centres. As described above, resources on edge devices are restricted. Therefore, and as opposed to cloud infrastructure, edge devices do not scale horizontally. That is one reason why every piece of the edge tech stack is – typically and ideally – highly optimized for resource efficiency. Any computing done more efficiently helps reduce energy consumption. Taking into account the huge number of devices already deployed , the worldwide impact of reducing ressource use for the same operations is significant.

With Edge Computing you can use existing hardware

There is a realm of edge devices already deployed that is currently underused. Many existing devices are capable of data pesistence, and some even for fairly complex computing. When these devices – instead – send all of their data to the cloud, an opportunity is lost. Edge Computing enables companies to use existing hardware and infrastructure (retrofitting),  taking advantage of the available computing power. If these devices continue to be underused, we will need to build bigger and bigger central data centers, simultaneously burdening existing network infrastructure and reducing bandwidth for senselessly sending everything to the cloud.

Cloud versus Edge: an Example

Today, many projects are built based on cloud computing. Especially in first prototypes or pilots, cloud computing offers an easy and fast start. However, with scale, cloud computing often becomes too slow, expensive, and unreliable. In a typical cloud setup, data is gathered on edge devices and forwarded to the cloud for computation and storage. Often a computed result is sent back. In this design, the edge devices are dumb devices that are dependant upon a working internet connection and a working cloud server; they do not have any intelligence or logic of their own. In a smart home cloud example, data would be sent from devices in the home, e.g. a thermostat, the door, the TV etc. to the cloud, where it is saved and used.

Cloud vs Edge

If the user would want to make changes via a cloud-based mobile app when in the house, the changes would be send to the cloud, changed there and then from there be sent to the devices. When the Internet connection is down or the server is not working, the application will not work.

With Edge Computing, data stays where it is produced, used and where it belongs – without traversing the network unnecessarily. This way, cloud infrastructure needs are reduced in three ways: Firstly, less network traffic, secondly, less central storage and thirdly less computational power. Rather, edge computing makes use of all the capable hardware already deployed in the world. E.g. in a smart home, all the data could stay within the house and be used on site. Only the small part of the data truly needed accessible from anywhere would be synchronized to the cloud.

Cloud vs Edge

Take for example a thermostat in such a home setting: it might produce 1000s of temperature data points per minute. However, minimal changes typically do not matter and data updates aren’t necessary every millisecond. On top, you really do not need all this data in the cloud and accessible from anywhere.

With Edge Computing, this data can stay on the edge and be used within the smart home as needed. Edge Computing enables the smart home to work fast, efficiently, and autonomous from a working internet connection. In addition, the smart home owner can keep the private data to him/herself and is less vulnerable to hacker attacks. 

How does ObjectBox make Edge Computing even more sustainable?

ObjectBox improves the sustainability of Edge Computing with high performance and efficiency: our 10X speed advantage translates into less use of CPU and battery / electricity. With ObjectBox, devices compute 10 times as much data with equivalent power. Due to the small size and efficiency, ObjectBox runs on restricted devices allowing application developers to utilize existing hardware longer and/or to do more instead on existing infrastructure / hardware.

Alongside the performance and size advantages, ObjectBox’ Sync solution takes care of making data available where needed when needed. It allows synchronization in an offline setting and / or to the cloud. Based on efficient syncing principles, ObjectBox Sync aims to reduce unnecessary data traffic as much as possible and is therefore perfectly suited for efficient, useful, and sustainable Edge Computing. Even when syncing the same amount of data, ObjectBox Sync reduces the bandwidth needed and thus cloud networking usage, which incidentally reduces cloud costs.

ObjectBox’ Time Series feature, provides users an intuitive dashboard to see patterns behind the data, further helping users to track thousands of data points/second in real-time.

How Edge Computing enables new use cases that help make the world more sustainable

As mentioned above, there are a variety of IoT applications that help reduce waste of all kinds. These applications can have a huge impact on creating a more sustainable world, assuming the applications themselves are sustainable. Three powerful examples to demonstrate the huge impact IoT applications can have on the world:

1) Smart City Lighting: Chicago has implemented a system which allows them to save approx. 10 million USD / year and London estimates it can save up to 70% of current electricity use and costs as well as maintenance costs through smart public lighting systems. [10]

2) Reducing Food Waste: From farm to kitchen, IoT applications can help to reduce food waste across the food chain. Sensors used to monitor the cold chain, from field to supermarket, can ensure that food maintains a certain temperature, thus guaranteeing that products remain food safe and fresh longer, reducing food waste.

3) Reduce Water Waste: Many homes and commercial building landscapes are still watered manually or on a set schedule. This is an inexact method of watering, which does not take into account weather, soil moistness, or the water levels needed by the plant. Using smart IoT water management solution, landscape irrigation can be reduced, saving water and improving landscape health.

These positive effects are all the more powerful when the IoT applications themselves are sustainable. 

The benefits of cloud computing are broad and powerful, however there are costs to this technology. A combination of green data centers and Edge Computing helps to resolve these often unseen costs. With Edge Computing we can reduce the unnecessary use of bandwidth and server capacity (which comes down to infrastructure, electricity and physical space) while simultaneously taking advantage of underused device resources. ObjectBox amplifies these benefits, with high performance on small devices and efficient data synchronization – making edge computing an even more sustainable solution.

Why Edge Computing is More Relevant in 2021 Than Ever

Why Edge Computing is More Relevant in 2021 Than Ever

The world has been forced to digitize more quickly and to a greater extent in 2020 and 2021. COVID has created the need to remodel how work, socializing, production, entertainment, and supply chains function. Despite decades of digitization efforts, with the pandemic upon us, digitization challenges have become transparent. Many companies and countries realize now, they have fallen behind. And those that have not yet digitized were hit hardest by the pandemic. [1] With people leaning heavily on online digital solutions, internet infrastructure is at its capacity limit. [2] Accordingly, users are seeing broadband speeds drop by as much as half. [3] In Europe, governments even requested to reduce the quality of Netflix, Amazon Prime, Youtube and other streaming services to improve network speed. [4]

These challenges demonstrate the growing need for an alternative to cloud computing. Cloud computing is an inherently centralized computing paradigm. Edge Computing is a decentralized topology that is based on keeping data local, at the ‘edge’ of the network, as close to the source as possible. Edge Computing is ideal for applications that are data-intensive, have high latency-requirements, or need to work offline, independant from a cloud connection. Using data on the edge, directly on or near the source of the data, not only increases the efficiency and speed of data use, but it reduces unecessary network burden and data traffic waste.

Coronavirus accelerates the need to digitize

It was clear even before the outbreak that internet infrastructure was struggling to keep up with growing data volumes. However, the pandemic has made broadband limitations more apparent to everyday users.

Projections estimate that by 2025 there will be 20 million IoT devices [5] and 1.7MB of data created per second per person. It is slow, expensive, and wasteful to send all of this data to the cloud for storage and processing. This practice overburdens bandwidth and data center infrastructure. It makes projects expensive and unsustainable. Working with the data, locally, on the edge, where it was produced and is used, is more efficient than sending everything to the cloud and back. It brings reduced latency, reduced cloud usage and costs, independence from a network connection, more secure data and heightened data privacy – and even reduces CO2. Indeed, prior to the pandemic, edge computing was on the strategic roadmap for over 50% of mobility decision makers. [6]

As the world begins to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, digitization efforts will no doubt increase. We will see intelligent systems implemented across industries and value chains, accelerating innovation and alongside: data volumes and subsequent strain on network bandwidth. Edge computing is a key technology to ensure that this digitalization is both scalable and sustainable.  

Edge Computing takes the ‘edge’ off bandwidth strain

what is edge computing?

What is Edge Computing?

With edge computing, data is stored and used on devices at the “edge” of the network – away from centralized cloud servers. Computing on the edge means that data is stored and used locally, on the device, e.g. a smart phone or IoT device. Edge computing delivers faster decision making, local and offline data processing, as well as reduced data transfer to the cloud (e.g. filtered, computed, extra- or interpolated data), which saves both bandwidth and cloud storage costs. 

The Edge complements the Cloud

Although some might set cloud and edge in competition, the reality is that edge computing and cloud computing are both useful and relevant technologies. Both have different strengths and ideal use cases. Together they can provide the best of both worlds: decentralized local storage and processing, making efficient use of hardware on the edge and central storing and processing of some data, enabling additional centralized insights, data backups (redundancy), and remote access. To combine the best of both worlds, relevant and useful data must be synchronized between the edge and cloud in a smart and efficient way.  

Edge computing is an ideal technology to reduce the strain on data centers, so those functions that need cloud connection have adequate bandwidth; while those use cases that benefit from reduced latency and offline functionality are optimized on the edge.

The Edge: interface between the Physical and the Digital World

Edge devices handle the interface between the physical world and the cloud, enabling a whole set of new use cases. “Data-driven experiences are rich, immersive and immediate. But they’re also delay-intolerant data hogs”. [8] And therefore need to happen locally, on the edge. We may see edge computing enabling new forms of remote engagement [9], particularly in a post-corona environment.

Edge devices can be anything from a thermostat or small sensor to a fridge or mobile phone or car – and they are part of our direct physical world and use data from their local environment to enable new use cases. Think self-stocking fridges, self-driving cars, drone-delivered pizzas. In the same way, Edge Computing is the key to the first real world search engine. I am waiting for it every day: “Hey Google, where are my keys?” Within a location like a house, the concepts and technologies to enable such a real-world search engine are all clear and available – it is just a matter of time and ongoing digitization. The basis will need to be a fast and sustainable edge infrastructure. 

Sustainability on the Edge

Centralized data centers consume a lot of energy, produce a lot of carbon emissions and cause significant electronic waste. [10] While data centers are seeing a positive trend towards using green data centers, an even more sustainable approach is to cut unnecessary cloud traffic, central computation and storage as much as possible by shifting computation to the edge. Edge Computing strategies that harness the power of already deployed available hardware (like e.g. smartphones, machines, desktops, gateways) make the solution even more sustainable.

sustainability on the edge

Intelligent Edge: AI and Edge advance hand in hand

The growth of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Edge will go hand in hand. As more and more data is generated at the edge of the network, there will be a greater demand for intelligent data processing and structured optimization to reduce raw data loads going to the cloud. [11] Edge AI will have the power to work with data on local devices, keeping data streams more useful and usable. In the near future, Machine Learning applications will have the ability to learn and create unique, localized, decentralized insights on the edge – based on local inputs.

“With Edge AI, personalization features that we want from the app can be achieved on device. Transferring data over networks and into cloud-based servers allows for latency. At each endpoint, there are security risks involved in the data transfer”. [12] Which is part of the reason why the Edge AI Software market is forecasted to reach 1.12 trillion dollars volume by 2023. The development of AI accelerators, which improve model inferencing on the edge, namely from NVIDIA, Intel and Google are helping to make AI on the edge more viable. [13] A fast edge database is a necessary base technology to enable more AI on the edge. 

Edge Computing – an answer to Data Privacy concerns and a need for Resilience

As data collection grows in both breadth and depth, there is a stronger need for data privacy and security. Edge computing is one way to tackle this challenge: keeping data where it is produced, locally, makes data ownership clear and data less likely to be attacked and compromised. If compromised, the data compromised is clearly defined, making notification and subsequent actions manageable. ObjectBox, in its core and as an edge technology, is designed to keep data private, on those devices it was created on, and only share select data as needed. 

The more our private and working lives as well as the larger economy depend on digitalization, the more important it is that systems, underlying computing paradigms as well as networks have strong resilience and security. In computer networking, resilience is the ability to “provide and maintain an acceptable level of service in the face of faults and challenges to normal operation.” [14]

ing initEdge Computing shifts computer workloads – the collection, processing, and storage of data – from central locations (like the cloud) to the edge of the networks to many individual devices such as cell phones. Accordingly, any strain is distributed to many devices. Therefore, the risk of a total breakdown is reduced: If one device does not work anymore, the rest is still working. Depending on the setup, the individual devices could even compensate for devices that have a problem.

The same applies to security risks: Even if data from one device is compromised, all other data sets are still safe; the loss is thus very limited and clear.  Overall, as a complement to the cloud, edge computing provides improved strength and security in local networks around the world. These local infrastructures can relieve the pressure on the existing complex dependencies, and in turn make the wider system more resilient and flexible. With Edge Computing crisis response can therefore in all likelihood be faster, better informed, and more effective. [15]

Why Corona-Tracking-Apps need to work on the edge

There was initially quite some debate about taking a centralized versus decentralized approach to Corona-Tracking-Apps. [16] Many people were worried about their data. Edge Computing – storing most parts of the data locally, on the user’s device – is a great way to avoid unnecessary data sharing and keep data ownership clear. At the same time, data is by and large much more secure and less likely to be attacked and hacked, as the data to be gained is very reduced. An intelligent syncing mechanism like ObjectBox Sync ensures that the data which needs to be shared, is shared in a selective, transparent and secure way.

The next few years will see big cultural changes in both our personal and professional lives – a portion of those changes will be driven by increased digitalization. Edge computing is an important paradigm to ensure these changes are sustainable, scalable, and secure. Ultimately, we have the chance to rise from this crisis with new insights, new innovation, and a more sustainable future.

1. https://www.netzoekonom.de/2020/04/11/die-oekonomie-nach-corona-digitalisierung-und-automatisierung-in-hoechstgeschwindigkeit/
2. https://www.cnet.com/news/coronavirus-has-made-peak-internet-usage-into-the-new-normal/
3. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/26/business/coronavirus-internet-traffic-speed.html
4. https://www.theverge.com/2020/3/27/21195358/streaming-netflix-disney-hbo-now-youtube-twitch-amazon-prime-video-coronavirus-broadband-network
5. https://www.gartner.com/imagesrv/books/iot/iotEbook_digital.pdf
6. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forrester/2019/12/02/predictions-2020-edge-computing-makes-the-leap/#1aba50104201
7. https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/what-edge-computing-means-for-infrastructure-and-operations-leaders/
8. https://www.iotworldtoday.com/2020/03/19/ai-at-the-edge-still-mostly-consumer-not-enterprise-market/
9. https://www.accenture.com/us-en/insights/high-tech/edge-processing-remote-viewership
10. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12053-019-09833-8
11. https://www.forbes.com/sites/cognitiveworld/2020/04/16/edge-ai-is-the-future-intel-and-udacity-are-teaming-up-to-train-developers/#232c8fab68f2
12. https://www.forbes.com/sites/cognitiveworld/2020/04/16/edge-ai-is-the-future-intel-and-udacity-are-teaming-up-to-train-developers/#232c8fab68f2
13. https://www.forbes.com/sites/janakirammsv/2019/07/15/how-ai-accelerators-are-changing-the-face-of-edge-computing/#2c1304ce674f
14. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resilience_(network)
15. https://www.coindesk.com/how-edge-computing-can-make-us-more-resilient-in-a-crisis
16. https://venturebeat.com/2020/04/13/what-privacy-preserving-coronavirus-tracing-apps-need-to-succeed/