Limitless Opportunities for IIoT Innovation
Manufacturing has transcended its material nature and emerged in a new form that is partially virtual. Looking ahead a few years, the trend will continue as the modern factory embraces a mix of cloud and fog computing.
Most manufacturers won’t choose one over the other but will likely lean on both as they find the cloud/fog combination leads to improved operation and workflows, optimized assets, enhanced services and increased revenue opportunities.
Fog computing versus cloud computing
Cloud computing has been around for more than a decade and is no longer novel. As Gartner wrote in a 2017 report, cloud computing has changed the expectations for the IT department “and is now an expected part of most disruptions.”
Fog computing is a more recent addition; Cisco introduced it in 2014. The concept seeks to address a major weakness of cloud computing: Its reliance on a robust and constant connection to a far-off data center. The alternative is to execute the processing on premise. This may sound like a throwback, but the difference is instead of an on-premise data system, the computing handled on IoT devices. Capacity here is deliberately limited and focused
That explains the name: Fog is a cloud that is close to the ground rather than up in the sky. This model is especially effective for Industrial IoT because it makes processing the data thrown off by sensors much more efficient.
Navigating the fog and cloud within the smart factory or enterprise
The need for fog computing can be especially acute in a factory environment. Factories often require instant action. You might need to stop a line that’s overloading the operation and causing a bottleneck or switch off the machine to avoid operator injury. In such cases, factory owners can’t afford to can’t wait for the data to be sent to the cloud for calculation — there just isn’t enough time.
That’s exactly the type of scenario in which fog computing can excel. Edge computing allows those calculations to be made quickly, without having to process data in the cloud. This utility is one reason that Grand View Research expects fog computing to grow 61.3 percent through 2025. But fog computing isn’t going to displace cloud computing because the two are complementary. Smart manufacturers use fog for mission-critical applications and the breadth of the cloud for everything else. Unlike fog computing, cloud gives firms the ability to store large amounts of data. Businesses can then access such data from anywhere, enabling real-time decision-making. Or near-real time. For faster decision making, there’s fog computing.
Proven use of the cloud and fog
Intelligently combining aspects of cloud and fog computing are the cornerstone of a pragmatic and workable Industry 4.0 strategy. Gartner estimates that about 10 percent of enterprise-generated data comes from outside a traditional centralized data center or cloud. By 2022, the figure could be as high as 50 percent.
At the same time, the amount of overall data continues to rise. IDC estimates that devices in 2021 will produce about four times the amount of data they did in 2016. Realizing the need for both faster on-premise computing and collection and analysis of larger amounts of data, smart manufacturers are turning to cloud-fog solutions.
A false dichotomy
When it comes to creating the Smart Factory of the future, it doesn’t always have to come down to one technology winning out over another. For today’s innovators, the deployment of both fog and cloud computing technologies into their Industry 4.0 plans can lead to improved operation and workflows, optimized assets, enhanced services and increased revenue opportunities. That’s why the forecast for the future of IIoT calls for both cloud and fog.
By Vinay Nathan, Co-Founder and CEO of Altizon Systems