Is it time to look at edge computing?

With the rise of 5G in manufacturing, effective edge computing requires consideration of industrial PCs (IPCs) at the edge.

By Stephen Hayes July 29, 2020

The rollout of 5G telecommunications networks will start to enable greater speeds and reduced latency. The introduction of these networks will support the development of more advanced computing applications like autonomous vehicles, and this has made businesses start to look more closely at edge computing. For the manufacturing sector, more effective edge computing does not need new telecoms technologies – it just requires consideration of industrial PCs (IPCs) at the edge.

Computing at the edge is not a new concept. In industries where connected devices or systems are active in the field, it is beneficial for those systems to complete some functions, like data processing or compression, without transmitting information. This helps avoid bottlenecks in data communication and reduces the response time of systems.

As the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) becomes more popular among industrial businesses, so too does the idea of moving computing responsibility away from central control rooms. According to one industry survey conducted in early 2019, 43% of manufacturers have already deployed some edge systems to help with data analysis or equipment data processing in the field.

Decentralizing the computing responsibility across a factory means systems can respond to performance data in near real-time, reduces the burden of data storage in centralized systems and helps make networks more robust.

Edge computing is also relatively straightforward to integrate into networks. It either requires investment in new systems with built-in computing capabilities, or retrofitting IPCs into existing machines to provide data processing, analysis and visualization at the edge.

However, because the potential for edge computing means that it will likely become commonplace in the years ahead, Beckhoff has used the opportunity to also address a longstanding industrial issue – specifically, the issue of machine real estate.

With edge computing growing in popularity and increasingly in the mind of businesses, it’s important that manufacturers identify effective, scalable systems to support their ambitions. With flexible, effective IPCs, manufacturers can do that.

This article originally appeared on Control Engineering Europe’s website.

Author Bio: Stephen Hayes is managing director of Beckhoff Automation UK.