One of the clearest trends this past year around the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Industry 4.0 is the growing importance of edge computing to these initiatives. A recent Automation World survey showed that 43 percent of respondents are either using edge computing technologies or are in the process of implementing it, closely approaching the 51 percent currently using cloud computing. This near parity of use between edge and cloud shows just how quickly edge computing—a technology that was little known just a few years ago—has really taken off across industry.
The growth of edge computing in industry underscores the strategy behind the recent announcement that The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) and the OpenFog Consortium have agreed to combine their organizations. As part of the agreement, which is expected to be finalized in early 2019, OpenFog will operate under the IIC umbrella. In its announcement of this agreement, the IIC stated that the combined memberships will “continue to drive the momentum of the Industrial Internet, including the development and promotion of industry guidance and best practices for fog and edge computing.”
Edge and fog computing are closely related in that fog computing is essentially a network of edge computers. In a 2016 article explaining the two terms, Automation World described fog computing as pushing “intelligence down to the local area network level of the network architecture, processing data in a fog node or IoT [Internet of Things] gateway.” In comparison, the article further explained that edge computing “pushes the intelligence, processing power and communication capabilities of an edge gateway or appliance directly into devices like programmable automation controllers.”
The focus of OpenFog’s efforts is to advance fog computing and address bandwidth, latency and communications challenges associated with fog computing use in IoT, 5G and artificial intelligence (AI).
“The Industrial Internet Consortium, now incorporating OpenFog, will be the single largest organization focused on IIoT, AI, fog and edge computing in the world,” said Bill Hoffman, IIC president. “Between both of our organizations, we have a remarkable global presence with members in more than 30 countries.”