Edge computing and cloud computing are becoming increasingly important infrastructures in industry 4.0. They can help improve current workflows, provided that you know when to use one or the other.
Industry 4.0: cloud computing VS. edge computing?
Today, about 10% of all data generated by a company is created and processed outside of a traditional centralized data center or cloud. On the one hand, Gartner predicts that by 2022, this figure will reach 75%. On the other hand, the consulting firm also indicates that 75% of databases will be stored in the cloud.
Even though these statements may seem contradictory at first glance, the reality is very different. The increasing use of edge architecture is explained by the exponential share of data produced by IoT (Internet of Things). But at the same time we are also seeing companies’ desire to transition from "on-premise" data centers to cloud storage. This begs the question of whether these architectures are really as opposed as many people claim?
The Industry 4.0 and IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) are also caught up in the debate: cloud and edge computing are often seen as rival architectures. However, they are not mutually exclusive. The crux of the matter is knowing where and how to use each one. Presenting the case of Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) in Industry 4.0.
For further information, read our article about the role of a CMMS in a company!
Edge computing for IoT in Industry 4.0
The term industry 4.0 is intrinsically linked to the rapid development of smart and connected devices (IoT). These devices generate a large amount of data that is then analyzed in order to optimize decision-making at different levels. The question is: how can this data be processed more easily?
That’s where edge computing comes in. The term refers to a decentralized, local IT system where data processing is carried out as close to the source of data as possible.
The law of Data Gravity
Edge computing architecture is based in part on the law of Data Gravity presented by Dave McCrory in 2010. This theory suggests that data has mass, just like planets do. The greater the mass, the stronger its gravitational pull and the more likely it is that applications will be attracted to it.
This is because as the mass of data increases, its movement becomes more complicated. If the bandwidth or latency is low then the pull will be that much stronger because the closer the application is to the source of the data transmission, the faster it can process it by reducing transport time.
Let's take the example of an autonomous car: even if some of the data can be sent to a centralized server for processing, part of it will have to be processed instantly (to the nearest millisecond) and will therefore have to be processed by an embedded server at the edge of the traditional network.
Edge computing therefore satisfies the need for instantaneous processing of certain data generated by IoT sensors.
The example of computerized maintenance management systems (cloud-based CMMS)
However, the deployment of edge architecture is not automatic. A good example of this is Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS). In this context, adopting an edge architecture would generate significant implementation and maintenance costs while reducing data accessibility and leaving you to ensure data processing security and compliance yourself. It is not impossible, but in all, except for a few very specific cases, the return on investment would be marginal. For most manufacturers, a cloud-based CMMS offers several significant advantages:
Security and Compliance
Industry 4.0 is mainly about connecting machines so that your manufacturing processes can adapt more quickly and intelligently to changing conditions. Connecting these tools will help you achieve higher levels of agility and automation. The cloud remains a reliable way to keep your data secure. Suppliers use high-performance authentication, encryption and access rights management technologies.
Accessibility and Mobility
In the cloud, the application isn’t linked to a single machine and, as a result, it can be accessed from anywhere. Whether on a desktop or mobile device, cloud solutions provide simultaneous access to the same information.
Mobility remains a big advantage in the maintenance management world! Technicians need to have a simple and accurate way to access information. For example, it is not uncommon for a plant to have several machines of the same type. Thanks to embedded mobile software, the technician only has to scan the QR code or NFC chip on the machine to access information and avoid any confusion.
Cost and Deployment
Cloud applications allow you to save money on the purchase and maintenance of equipment given that you don’t need to invest in hardware, network infrastructure or even in the construction of a Datacenter. You don’t need a bigger IT team either since you benefit from your supplier's expertise. Cloud applications make it possible to achieve high quality service with a much lower investment. They are also easier to deploy and eliminate almost all maintenance and development costs by leaving this expense to the supplier.
The Mobility Work bonus: the community
The community is one of the central elements of our maintenance management solution. Our vision is to enable technicians working on the same machines to exchange expertise, spare parts and best practices with other members of the community and to be increasingly able to identify different problems. Despite the data flows, the human factor remains essential in maintenance management.
To conclude, even if some people oppose cloud and edge architecture, they are in truth relatively complementary. The centralized cloud remains one of the cheapest and most efficient ways to store large amounts of data or process non-instantaneous information. For operations that require low latency or near real-time data processing, edge computing will provide a more appropriate solution. However, when used together, these architectures can lead to more efficient workflows!
For CMMS, where accessibility takes precedence over immediacy, cloud tools remain an appropriate choice to reduce the costs associated with your maintenance activities..