Fog & Edge Computing: A Manufacturing Perspective

A Conversation with Toby Mcclean, ADLINK

In this video, Toby Mcclean, Chief Solutions Architect for ADLINK, describes the business and technical impact that fog and edge computing have on manufacturing. Toby presents three key considerations aimed at anyone interested in adopting fog and edge for smart factory projects, but his insights are applicable to architects and buyers in all industries.

Watch the rest of the series:

Fog & Edge Computing in Networking and Telecommunications

Fog & Edge Computing in Defense and Aerospace

Computing at the Edge: Risks and Opportunities


Adrian Bowles: We’re with Toby, Chief Solution Architect at ADLINK. Let’s talk about the impact of edge and fog computing on manufacturing. I know you’re doing a lot of work with clients there, considering fog and edge, going from cloud perhaps. What are the key benefits or obstacles? Can you net that out into a couple bullet points that people need to look at?

Toby Mcclean: Yeah. The first one is the physical constraints on your systems. Sometimes you can’t afford the cost of transmitting to the cloud and back again, in terms of the time it takes to make a decision, or you don’t have the capacity to send all that.

The second one is the economics of it. You have to take into account the cost of transmitting data and whether the benefit you’re driving from leveraging the cloud is actually worth that cost, and whether it makes more sense to bring it closer to the asset. The final is security, privacy and regulatory. Sometimes you’re not willing to, or can’t, afford the risk of opening up that data to leave your premises.

As Manufacturing gets more intelligent, there’s more and more data that they need to capture and there is more automation that they can do on that. As they capture the data, they do some analysis on it, which gives them something they can make a judgment on. That judgment then can effectuate an action that they can do.

Where they are today is they’re using the data that’s coming off of the machines that they’ve instrumented to do the analysis, but what’s happening is a human that steps in and makes a judgment and actually does the action. As we move forward to the future and to this IoT’s grand vision, those judgements and effectuating the actions are actually going to be done by the machines

Adrian Bowles: Okay, you’ve convinced me. I want to get going, I want to make the transition, I want to leap ahead of my competition. They’re just doing cloud, I want to get into fog and edge. What sorts of products do I need that I didn’t need before? Process or people? How am I going to make that change?

Toby Mcclean: The first product you would need Adrian is if you’re assets aren’t connected, you need some way of instrumenting those assets and extracting that data. Whether that you have sensors that are analog and you need to convert that into digital data, or you have dark assets that you need to extract data out of, or you have assets that use some of these protocols that we talked about previously, in that protocol jungle, you need a product that will extract that data and put it into a form that can be analyzed. That will be both hardware and software. That could be a gateway. A lot of deployments out there in IT are using gateways to do that.

Moving up the stack, you need some server capacity to do some of the heavier computation. There you need two things, you need the hardware to do the computation, but you also need some software that takes data from your gateways and brings it to your server. There’s some data movement capabilities that you need there. Then of course you need the software with the infrastructure to do the dynamic provisioning on your fog node and manage the infrastructure for you.

Adrian Bowles: Thanks Toby. To recap, if you’re looking at fog and edge computing for manufacturing or to build or retrofit a smart factory, remember Toby’s three key considerations. Physical constraints, which may make fog and edge technology the only viable solution. Economic opportunities, which may justify the investment based on improved performance, with the ability to create new solutions at the edge. Security, privacy and regulatory issues, which may make fog and edge solutions more practical than a cloud only approach. For more information, please visit the URL at the end of the video.

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ADLINK Technology is leading edge computing with solutions that drive data-to-decision applications across industries. ADLINK provides robust and reliable hardware platforms, data connectivity, and complete Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) solutions to serve a wide variety of industries including networking, industrial automation, healthcare and defense.

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