Being in a fog used to be a bad thing. Not anymore. Now “fog” (as in fog computing) just might be the best path toward bringing the Internet of Things (IoT) – and the networking, computing, and data associated with IoT – to the level of efficiency that will make it pervasive.
Fog computing, if you’re not familiar with the term, is a system-level horizontal architecture that distributes the resources and services of computing, storage, control, and networking between the cloud and the “things” that are part of IoT.
Helder Antunes is chairman of the OpenFog Consortium, a one-year-old, diverse group of technology vendors, service providers, end user companies large and small, and universities, all dedicated to advancing fog technology through an open and interoperable fog computing architecture and making it something that any organization can use.
Antunes explains that fog computing is not a new technology; instead, it is a new way of looking at and architecting existing elements.
“Fog is the glue for all of these pieces,” Antunes says. “It is all about bringing storage, control points, computing resources, and networking from the cloud to the devices. It is about determining on a case-by-case basis how an organization can best apply its resources where they are most effective.”
Fog is able to augment the cloud, he emphasizes, by providing a continuum from cloud to things that help companies best achieve their corporate objectives.
Making IoT Blossom
IoT is a major driver of fog computing, along with 5G and AI. As Antunes puts it, “Why hasn’t IoT taken off like everybody predicted it would? Because the architectural approach hasn’t been up to par. Fog is the missing link!”
Fog computing, he says, offers the ability to distribute and apply the necessary resources closer to the edge along that cloud-to-edge continuum and deliver a level of efficiency that will power IoT adoption.
“People say we’re going to have billions of devices with every sensor having an IP address and intelligence, and that sounds great in theory, but it is really not cost-effective. If you can have fog gateways aggregating hundreds and thousands of sensors, this deployment becomes much more cost-effective,” he insists.
What does fog computing mean to the way companies and individuals work? Antunes says it will bring change due to its ability to intelligently converge all the technology elements.
By effectively deploying more and more sensors, and taking a smart data approach to the information generated by those sensors, it makes possible a better quality of life at home and at work, Antunes says. From truly autonomous vehicles to highly efficient traffic management to the increased use of drones for specific monitoring applications, our machines will be providing the data that we need to do our work better and more quickly.
Flying Through the Fog
He cites one interesting use case for fog computing, in the airline industry. Today, when a plane lands, data from its engines must be downloaded and analyzed. If any anomalies are discovered that could indicate trouble with the engine or any potential causes of failure, a new part must be procured and installed. It’s a process that typically takes several hours.
“With fog computing, you could have the capability to do all the analytics in-flight, on the plane, and transmit any anomalies. Then when the plane lands, the part can be waiting and your downtime is 15 to 30 minutes rather than hours,” Antunes says. “If you take an example like this and look at manufacturing plants, with their need for preventive maintenance, or the transportation industry, you can see how making this technology pervasive enhances efficiency and safety.”
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