What’s the latest in the world of fog computing?

The last time we checked in with Helder Antunes, chairman of the OpenFog Consortium, the fog concept was just starting to gain some traction as a system-level horizontal architecture designed to distribute the resources and services of computing, storage, control, and networking between the cloud and the “things” that are part of IoT.

That was almost a year and a half ago, and since then, “people are really starting to understand what fog is,” Antunes said. “The Consortium has done a good job in educating the public about fog.”

The Consortium has published its reference architecture document, established a number of workgroups, set up a 5G fog testbed, held the first Fog World Congress last October, and has broadened its membership, although Antunes says the group welcomes even more.

Importantly, the Consortium has also launched an in-depth study of specific fog use cases, with an eye toward helping user organizations build their business cases. Already, Antunes said, it’s clear that spending on fog will grow to some $20 billion within just the next few years.

The thing to remember is that fog is not in and of itself a new technology, but rather a new architecture. That architecture is propelling innovation, so there will be no shortage of fog-driven new technology and new products that will join existing equipment in the fog ecosystem.

Antunes reinforces that “fog is the glue” for all of this, as it brings storage, control points, computing resources, and networking from the cloud to and between particular devices in ways that allow an organization to apply resources where they are most effective.

Industries embracing the Fog

The industries where Antunes sees fog advancing most rapidly are transportation, oil and gas, industrial automation (smart factories), and smart cities.

Smart cities such as Barcelona, Marseilles, and Chicago have gotten so intelligent thanks to deployments heavy on the key elements of fog, Antunes explains. Major automotive manufacturers have implemented fog-influenced smart factory deployments. Even a beer factory has used the fog architecture in modernizing its brewery.

“There are a lot of early, referenceable deployments, and when you look at what they are doing now is better, it is because it is a fog architecture, a distributed architecture. Anything that benefits from improved quality of service and low latency is where this type of architecture really shines.”

A prime candidate for fog is healthcare, Antunes says, but that space is lagging a bit due to heavy regulation and the critical nature of the information involved.

Fog and IoT are trending to advance hand in hand, and Antunes sees fog as the “missing link” to bring IoT’s deployment more in line with the buzz surrounding it.

“If you look at the technological needs of IoT, such as low latency, security, and distributed resources, they need the architecture of fog,” he says. “The architectural effort is helping to facilitate the approach and the ways people will eventually deploy IoT applications. The frameworks that are being designed are leading to the development of technologies that will more rapidly advance IoT use cases.”

The role of 5G

If low latency and quality of service are important to fog, then wouldn’t a fog-5G pairing be a marriage made in heaven? Antunes says yes.

“I think 5G plays a major role in fog,” he declares. “If we look at the end-to-end architecture of the cloud, 5G will feature very prominently. The main features of fog are its proximity to end users and its dense distribution and support for mobility.

“With that in mind, 5G will provide low latency, location awareness, improved quality of experience, and streaming of real time applications. 5G will be a key enabler of the capabilities of the distributed architecture that we have currently.”

For the moment, fog is here, it is deployed, and it is growing. The value of 5G, Antunes concludes, is that it will take fog’s capabilities to the next level.