Analytics at the Edge Poised to Grow


(Image: chombosan/Shutterstock)

(Image: chombosan/Shutterstock)

Connectivity has improved by leaps and bounds since the dawn of the 21st century, and that has in turn enabled the growth of many industries, analytics included. However, as much as bandwidth and latency may have improved across large distances, there is still no real substitute for the response time of local hardware, and when it comes to analyzing big data, sometimes that's really important.

Take autonomous vehicles. With masses of on board sensors and cameras, there is a ton of data to process at any given moment, helping the passengers avoid obstacles and stay within the bounds of the roadway. Sending that information to the cloud is doable, but in moments of danger where every millisecond counts, it's far better to make those decisions locally. Relying on a remote connection would also require such vehicles to remain in strong coverage areas such as major population centers, where the improved infrastructure of traditional transport networks makes driverless transit less useful than it might in somewhere more remote.

But even in settings where a connection isn't a problem, like in the case of building-mounted security cameras, analytics at the edge can be incredibly useful. Facial recognition software could be handled within the camera itself, meaning that a person of interest could be identified by security staff immediately, rather than a few seconds later when the opportunity to stop them may have passed.

In cases where latency doesn't matter so much though, there are still benefits to analytics at the edge. Privacy is a major concern for consumers and enterprises, especially with increased federal surveillance of communication networks and the ever-present risk of hackers stealing data. In that sense, keeping it at the local level is a great way to minimize that risk.

In the same way as cloud-connectivity has only been made possible through advances in internet connections around the world, the current growth in analytics at the edge was enabled by advances in hardware processing capabilities. Using powerful parallel processors or a combination of higher and lower TDP processors for improved efficiency, these sorts of analytics hardware packages have been able to be condensed from traditional data center servers and brought down to the local level.

That is only likely to continue as time goes on, and while the top-tier hardware will make it possible to perform brand new functions -- ever smarter autonomous vehicles being just one of those -- it seems likely that as the technology becomes smaller and more powerful, we'll see it trickle down to other industries. Connected toys are rather popular at the moment, but with the same sorts of privacy concerns among consumers as enterprises face with remote analytics now, we could see analytics at the edge come to those toys and gadgets sooner rather than later.

As smart digital assistants like Siri, Cortana and Google Now become more popular, too, we could see 'offline' versions of them appear, or competitors that do the same. Although internet connectivity will always make that sort of software much more capable, it's possible that for personal in-home functions, or for smart security systems like Mark Zuckerberg's Jarvis, keeping the analytics local could avoid many of the privacy and security concerns that people may have about such systems.

The real power with analytics will always be at the grander, datacenter level, but it seems likely that as time goes on we'll see more of the lower level analytical functions transfer to local settings.

Jon Martindale, Technology Journalist

Jon Martindale is a technology journalist and hardware reviewer, having been covering new developments in the field for most of his professional career. In that time he's tested the latest and greatest releases from the big hardware companies of the world, as well as writing about new software releases, industry movements,and Internet activism.

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Re: Improving connectivity
  • 5/28/2017 8:52:43 PM
NO RATINGS

I don't think the vehicles need to be autonomous to have more data collected. I think GPS , smart consoles and other developments will generate most of the data.

Re: Improving connectivity
  • 5/28/2017 5:24:41 PM
NO RATINGS

While the costs of bandwith may very well decrease significantly I can only suppose that our automomous vehicles will increase substantially in cost with the benefit of course of added safety and a dramatic decrease in accidents. It may not be so easy though to guess if auto insurance cost will decrease. My guess is probably not.

Re: Improving connectivity
  • 5/22/2017 3:29:29 PM
NO RATINGS

5G will cause an ifrastructure change that will dramatically increase bandwidth and drive down costs. That will make the cost of acquiring all of this data go down and foster adoption.

Re: Saftey
  • 5/22/2017 10:05:07 AM
NO RATINGS

It will be interesting to watch developments over the next decade as we try to figure out all the permutations in what causes accidents and then engineer roadways, signs, and hardware and software and the wireless environments to try to preven as many accidents as possible. 

Re: Saftey
  • 5/22/2017 9:11:02 AM
NO RATINGS

I agree that we will be able to get road fatalities now near zero but I think it will take more than smart cars.  I live in one of the country's most dangerous cities for pedestrians and have to say that it's not always the driver that is at fault.  I watch people walk across 6 lane roads and stand on a foot wide median with cars going past at 50mph almost every day.  It won't matter how smart a car is if we don't improve the roadways as well and there are a lot of options there.

Re: Improving connectivity
  • 5/21/2017 6:43:51 PM
NO RATINGS

..

I agree with Seth about the benefits of having critical components (and I'd add capability) in the local hardware. Betond just the issue of robotic vehicles, I'm not comfortable with this whole trend of moving just about everything to the "cloud".

..

Saftey
  • 5/21/2017 2:05:04 AM
NO RATINGS

By 1999 we had over 6 times the number of people driving cars than we did in 1925 but due to technological advancements the annual death rate had declined from 18 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in 1925 to 1.7 per 100 million VMT in 1997--a 90% decrease. 

Driving was even more dangerous before 1925.  Even though we had cars that could only go 20 miles per hour Detroit had over 31 automobile accidents in just two months during the summer of 1908.

While cars have caused other problems, in the area of fatalities technology (and stop signs) has been one area where humans really did succeed. 

I think with more analytics and technology such a rearview cameras we can get fatalities down to almost zero.

 

 

Re: Improving connectivity
  • 5/21/2017 1:58:39 AM
NO RATINGS

Re: "However, as much as bandwidth and latency may have improved across large distances, there is still no real substitute for the response time of local hardware"

Despite the great improvements 5G will bring I believe with machinary such as automobiles you still want to keep the critical components in the hardware.  While I would like to believe people would still know how to drive with the internet or connection down I'd rather not take chances.

Re: Improving connectivity
  • 5/19/2017 8:32:54 AM
NO RATINGS

I don't think 5G will be the catalyst here, for logging simple data even the second gen data services were enough bandwidth.  What will need to happen is pricing for data only connections will need to drop dramatically or a whole new mobile data model will need to appear.  That said, I'm wondering if we'll see a small market pop up targeting all the cities who rolled out municipal wireless networks years ago and using those networks for data capture of city assets. 

Improving connectivity
  • 5/18/2017 5:05:05 PM
NO RATINGS

As we start to roll out 5G networks and more things become connected, this will only lead to more data being generated . This gives us the opportunity to do new things with this data. I think the edge will only become more important.

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