To be able to process a huge volume of data, companies will have to rely on the right technology in the future: The optimal solution is a combination of edge computing and cloud computing, two technologies that perfectly complement each other.
Whether it handles data locally, centrally, or via the Internet, each company has its own strategy for recording and processing production data in order to improve processes. When processing this data, edge computing offers enormous advantages to manufacturers and is evolving as a technology of the future. Basically, edge computing means decentralized data processing at the edge of the network. Although the term “edge” is increasingly being used in the context of industrial production these days, many companies are still not sure how they can fully exploit their potential with the technology. Some may not even know what the word means.
Smart manufacturing does not simply mean collecting vast amounts of data with the help of sensors. Far more decisive is the ability to use that data to automatically generate information that helps improve production results. This, in turn, depends to a great extent on high computational and processing capacities located in both a central site (cloud) and on the periphery (edge).
Cloud services undoubtedly offer huge benefits. By analyzing data in a cloud, new insights into a production process or machine can be gained, leading to greater efficiency and availability. Transferring all data into and out of the cloud, however, is time-consuming and in some cases not practical, since every second counts on the factory floor. Manufacturers must have the capability to quickly and securely analyze and utilize data to improve their production results.
Exploit the potential
Companies that rely on local data processing soon reach their limits. That’s because of the numerous different systems that are difficult to harmonize, but also because they lack the computing capacity for processing data on-site, and companywide, global processing is not possible. But the alternative of cloud computing also reaches its limits in specific applications, due in part to massive volumes of data, legal regulations, or latencies. Moreover, sending large volumes of data to the cloud for processing requires a high bandwidth – a costly matter, especially for smaller companies. A combination of local data processing directly in production, down to the automation level, and processing in the cloud can be the optimal solution here – and open up enormous potential for industry. This combination gives manufacturers the opportunity to take full advantage of the cloud, while still meeting market demands for maximum flexibility and responsiveness. When large amounts of data are processed by edge computing, a company’s storage and transmission costs are reduced – since only relevant data is transferred to a cloud or IT infrastructure.
Some manufacturers may have concerns that edge computing is possible only with expensive investments in new automation systems. With Siemens’ Industrial Edge, edge data processing devices can simply be connected to existing automation systems, fully integrated with them, or delivered with the systems themselves as a standard component. As a result of this flexibility, implementation costs should no longer be an issue, not even for SMEs.
Edge computing and cloud computing are becoming increasingly important for a growing number of manufacturing industries. The most sensible strategy, then, is to utilize the best of both technologies, since they optimally complement each other. By combining both technologies, data processed by edge computing can be used in the cloud to train AI algorithms. The resulting findings can then be downloaded back into the edge infrastructure, making possible an ongoing optimization of the entire manufacturing process.