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AT THE when to bring
CUTTING intelligence

EDGE closer to the action

by James Blackman

Editor, Enterprise IoT Insights


“There’s loads of compute and

storage in those things. There
always has been; it’s just you can
now connect them as part of a
bigger IoT deployment, and do more
than just pump data into the cloud.
It’s not about a machine doing
some local processing; it is about
connecting those devices together,
so the whole system does
awesome stuff”
Dirk Didascalou, vice president of

n the internet-of-things (IoT) market, learning in the industrial space. president of IoT at the Amazon subsidiary.
the volume of connected end-points It is only by combining these elements “But there’s loads of compute and stor-
is head-spinning, already: 14.2 billion that we can take that question age in those things. There always

in 2019, reckons Gartner, rising to 25 entirely seriously. Data science has been; it’s just you can now
billion by 2021. In practical terms, the real is a hard road for humans. In connect them as part of a big-
kicker is what to do with all the data from conversation, AWS quotes a ger IoT deployment, and they
these ‘things’. study about the hard graft of connected do more than just pump data.
That is the question that will determine data science: analysts spend ‘things’ It’s not about a machine do-
whether the potential value of the broad 80 per cent of their time pre- by 2021 ing some local processing; it is
IoT market – $1.2 trillion will be spent on paring data; just 16 per cent - GARTNER about connecting those devic-
IoT technology in 2022, according to IDC – goes on training and refining it es together, and to the cloud,

is in digital transformation, or just in selling to eke out insights. so the whole system does
the idea of it. Humans have never been awesome stuff.”
It is the difference between ‘sensing’ and much good at donkey work, The difference is the
‘sense-making’, as it were – between the and AI makes lighter works of it. – annual IoT clank and boom of in-
connectivity and intelligence in IoT sys- Computers, beasts of the infor- spending dustrial IoT is opening up
tems. A lucrative market has already grown mation age, are being burdened by 2022 the closed world of oper-
up for technology vendors connecting with increasing volumes of data - IDC ational technology (OT) at
‘things’, but digital change requires them and equipped with advancing ma- last. Industrial machines are
to work together to spark new business chine-learning algorithms as ever-more not alone anymore. They are be-
insight – which only comes with artificial ‘things’ are connected. ing joined into a bigger system; their data
intelligence (AI) at the edge. This is not new; the ‘edge’ – “the things- is being mixed up in the cloud and con-
“If you knew the state of everything and space, the T-space in IoT,” says AWS – has sumed in flight, with each machine able to
could reason on top of that data, what always existed as a venue for industrial execute custom commands.
problems would you solve?” This is the computing. “Maybe in the beginning, Increasingly, the processing is happen-
question AWS asks its interlocutors when software people thought that just meant ing at the outer edge, close to the live ac-
discussing the combination of sensors, silly sensors, pumping data into the big I – tion in factories and industrial plants. This is
distributed compute power, and machine into the cloud,” says Dirk Didascalou, vice the case for time-critical, business-critical,


bandwidth-intensive, and bandwidth-void manager for autonomous machines at

applications. We will consider each of Global data and analytics Nvidia.
these, momentarily. “That is the difference,” revenues in smart Global data and analytics service rev-
comments Didascalou. “That is what’s
manufacturing $26bn enues in smart manufacturing will reach
really happening at the edge.” $7.5 billion by the end of 2022 and $25.6
billion in 2026, from a standing start of
OFF-BROADWAY AI around $2 billion today, says ABI Research.
The ‘edge’, then, is just an off-Broadway “Edge computing is going to drive that,”
venue for live-action AI, which comple-
$7.5bn comments Pierce Owen, principal analyst
ments the on-Broadway drama in the $2bn at ABI Research.
cloud. The ‘intelligent edge’, a term coined Many industrial functions cannot wait or
by the industry to describe the whole 2018 2222 2226 rely on far-off algorithms to crunch and re-
scene, is already lowering the bottom line Source: ABI Research, ‘ Balancing Edge and Cloud in the turn data for embedded systems to spark
for enterprises in any number of sectors. Digital Factory’ (2018) into action. They need it in ’real-time’, and
Growth looks to be sudden, and massive. the cloud won’t cut it. “The cloud is a tool,
Eighteen months ago, Gartner estimated and tools have specific purposes, but they
10 per cent of enterprise-generated data more; it is almost rudimentary to say so.” can’t do everything,” says Joe Speed, field
was created and processed outside of The magic of data centres was to en- chief technology officer for IoT solutions
centralised data centres; its forecast, still able connected devices and connected at ADLINK.
widely quoted, is the figure will reach 75 enterprises to offload data into neb- Edge computing, bringing the heavy
per cent by 2025. ulous repositories for remote grunt of data analytics in-house, is the only

But is this conservative, even? handling. Computing power promise that these IDC-sized enterprise in-
People are compelled to know was outsourced and made vestments will ever deliver a return – and,
the future, observes Tom invisible. But the dream of beyond, that AI will ever beget industrial
Bradicich, vice president for enterprise data IoT is to take constant and rebirth. These are the key elements: the
edge and IoT systems at HPE. processed at rapid illumination from motivation to change, and the means to
The laws of statistics and prob- edge by 2025 data – harvested massively, achieve it.
ability say the wider the sample, - GARTNER translated instantly. “For many of the most interesting and
the greater the insight; the IoT sec- Today, the promise of digital valuable problems, the intelligence has
tor is driven to deploy more devices to transformation is nothing short of to be closer to the action,” says Speed. But
gather more data. industrial revolution. “We are in the middle what are these use cases? What are their
“We’re connecting washing machines of one of one of the most significant tech- technical constraints, and how do enterpris-
and dog food bowls,” says Bradicich. “The nology transitions in the last 100 years,” es go about designing an edge architecture
Gartner stat’ is going to be 80 per cent, or comments Jesse Clayton, senior product to support them?

Pentair provides water filtration systems data is sent to AWS IoT Core. When con-
equipped with sensors to fish farms and nectivity is limited, AWS IoT Greengrass
large industrial brewing customers. Most provides Pentair with a local connection
of its industrial customers are located so data is never lost.
in geographies with unreliable internet Pentair can make decisions in near
connectivity. They need to send data from real-time that impact the health of its
sensors and devices to the cloud while devices but also the health of the fish
continuously maintaining connection, – which in turn, results in better yields,
which is challenging in remote areas. prevents the spread of disease, and lowers
From Pentair’s water filtration systems, the cost of operations.


“The mass of data from industrial IoT

applications poses an enormous challenge.
Risks arise when the flood of data can no
longer be processed with the necessary low
latency. This happens when the physical path
from the sensor to the cloud is ‘too long’. ”
Bernd Gross, chief technology officer,
Software AG

REAL TIME OPERATIONS Andreas Vogel, vice president at SAP Labs, making the case for private LTE as an indus-
Modern AI is having such an impact because comments: “A round-trip to the cloud which trial transport technology, presents a graph-
“it performs better than previous approach- can be hundreds of milliseconds and more ic with an axis for latency and an axis for
es and, in some cases, better than humans,” might be too slow for certain operations. bandwidth, and AI applications mapped be-
explains Clayton at Nvidia. The problem is, Edge computing can deliver responses in tween (see below). LTE, privately managed,
in many cases, it will not perform at all, or at tens of milliseconds.” gets you to latency of 40-50ms, it reckons;
least not quickly enough to be valuable, if it Bradicich at HPE raises the classic chal- 5G, with tuning, will go further, >> page 6
is locked away in data centres. lenge of response times
“Anything that needs to operate in real in autonomous vehicles.
time has to be done at the edge,” says Owen “How soon do you want to Mapping latency and bandwidth
at ABI Research. Running intelligence in
edge-based infrastructure means applica-
know the object in front of
you is a garbage can ver-
against IoT applications
tions are less constrained by network la- sus a girl? You really want

tency and bandwidth, the twin gods in any to send that data to the 360 VIDEO VR + VEHICLES
real-time comms architecture. cloud – and then wait?”
“The sheer mass of data from industrial He also introduces ideas
IoT applications poses an enormous chal- about compliance and

lenge,” says Bernd Gross, chief technology corruption into the mix –

officer at Software AG and chief executive benefits that are less about
at Cumulocity. Risks arise when the system making the industrial en-
gets flooded and the pipes get blocked. gine hum, and more about

“This happens when the physical path clearing the road so the
from the sensor to the cloud is ‘too long’,” wheels can roll. But latency
he explains. and bandwidth are the real
The concept of ‘real time’ is relative; frac- showstoppers so far as in-

tions matter, as the difference between dustrial performance goes. PEOPLE + THINGS SYSTEM CONTROL
success and failure in the industrial world. They demarcate the
10s 1s 100ms 10ms 1ms 100us
“Seconds of excessive heat stress are suf- edge – how far compute
ficient to cause cost-intensive damage on and inference goes from Latency Source: Nokia
sensitive machines,” says Gross. the factory floor. Nokia,


Where is the IIoT edge? Four points

on the edge-cloud continuum
he Industrial Internet Consortium

of edge computing in industrial set-
tings, with the ‘edge’ variously locat-

ed at certain points of remove from the data

Decision latency, connectivity, control requirements, information decay, analytical complexity
source depending on the technical require-
ments of the use case. 1 IOT EQUIPMENT
Todd Edmunds, senior solution architect
at Cisco, and author of an IIC white paper 2 IOT GATEWAYS / INDUSTRIAL PCS
on the subject, defines the ‘edge’ as a logical
layer, rather than a specific physical divide, 3 IOT MICRO DATA CENTRE
describing a “continuum of fundamental ca-
pabilities” for industrial IIoT solutions. “The
definition of edge moves depending on your
problem,” says Edmunds. ”You might be con- Edge computing - manufacturers have four options for placement of compute power, from the device to the cloud
trolling data with an edge temperature con-
troller, and you might be aggregating data in “The definition of edge moves facility, factory or an oil field requires data
a single cloud instance from 35 factories.” from multiple sources at short intervals to
The IIC’s four industrial IoT edge scenar- depending on your business apply optimisation algorithms that will adapt
ios – at device level to measure pump tem- problem. You might be supply-chain plans in systems like SCM or ERP.
peratures, at plant level to monitor machine The fundamental capability requires local or
performance, at the factory perimeter to
controlling data with an edge factory-level connectivity with decisions made
optimise supply chain processes, and at en- temperature controller, and in hours. Additional information outside the
terprise level to predict equipment failure you might be aggregating perimeter of the factory may be useful, but not
(see graphic above; described by the IIC in mandatory for effective optimisation. In this
situ, below) – are only a snapshot of a layered data in a single cloud instance instance, the edge is at the perimeter of the
decentralised compute architecture. from 35 factories“ factory, plant or local facility.”


“In this scenario, a ‘dumb’ thermocouple architect, Cisco “Machine learning models to predict Electric
measures temperature on a pump. A pump Submersible Pump (ESP) failures require data
with edge computing capability can perform is often expressed through performance from many offshore platforms. The analytics
basic analytics to determine if a threshold indicators like ‘overall equipment effectiveness’ are complex and require large amounts of
is exceeded, and shut the pump down in (OEE). Near real-time analytics on multiple data to train models. It also requires regular
milliseconds. There is no decision latency data points from sensors in the plant area can data feeds from ESPs to determine each unit’s
and no need for connectivity to perform this be processed on a local gateway and provide remaining life. The data from individual ESPs
function. Connectivity is not necessary, but it OEE trends and alerts to operational systems. needs to be analysed regularly but informa-
may be used for notification. The time value of This case requires data from multiple sources tion decay is much slower than in the other
the temperature information decays rapidly to perform simple analytics. The time value of scenarios and decisions can be taken daily or
as delayed response can result in equipment information is high as response delays waiting weekly. Computation is typically performed at
damage. In this case the edge is at the device for decisions from the cloud can cause signifi- the enterprise level using a public or private
level as it can achieve the key objective.” cant losses. Here, the edge is at the plant level.” cloud. The edge can be anywhere along the
time-value graph. It is ‘where’ data for sensors
2 | PERFORMANCE MONITORING 3 | SUPPLY-CHAIN OPTIMISATION is used to achieve a specific key objective or
“The performance of production equipment “Optimising supply chain processes for a local address a specific business problem.”


eventually, to closer 1ms. else. Bandwidth costs money, and is liable

There is a chicken-and-egg question to fail. “If you take it to the cloud, you’re too
about the architecture and the applica- late – the part has been damaged, the box
tions, with edge use cases emerging all the has been misplaced, the worker has been
time. But the applications that have led the injured,” says Speed.
charge to the outer rim, for the industrial set The “sweet spot” for edge computing
at least, are clear in the Nokia graphic: vid- is when both latency and bandwidth de-
eo canes bandwidth, and demands closer mands combine at once, says Diego Tam-
compute functions; mixed reality applica- burini, principal industry lead for man-
tions hinge on lightning data handoffs. ufacturing in Microsoft’s Azure division
Combine these elements of speed and – “when a huge amount of processing has
throughput, and nothing but the edge to happen fast”.
will do. “It’s impossible to make AR hap- One innovative example of this – which
pen with regional data centres,” remarks seems to capture the mad reach of both hu-
Stephan Litjens, general manager of dig- man imagination and machine intelligence
ital automation at Nokia. He suggests an – is from Swiss technology firm Bühler. It
experiment to put traditional data-centre has developed an optical sorter to punch-
latencies into perspective. out carcinogenic corn kernels, infected by a
“Look at me,” he says, “your eyes will fol- mould called aflatoxin, from a waterfall-like
low, automatically, as I move – that reflex in corn-feed in food processing plants.

your eyes is 7ms. Now think of a data cen- In the Bühler solution, corn gets

per sec
tre in the next city, over the horizon. Just fed from a truck to a hopper, and
for the light to go back and forth is 10ms. into a chute, and falls at 3.5
So it’s game over. You must have the edge – rate at which mai ze metres per second as a single
cloud on site – and that’s not just for AR, passes in front of “yellow sheet of corn”. Cameras
but all kinds of industrial processes.” LumoVision camera; project UV light to illuminate
time enough to the grains; a telltale fluores-
id and eliminate
THE ‘SWEET SPOT’ bad kernels cence shows up the aflatoxin,
These are the use cases that have tipped the and high-speed air jets shoot con-
balance, for suppliers and customers. “At taminated kernels into a rejects bin.
some point, over a period of time, the big The rest passes into shipping containers.
cloud guys had an epiphany, and realised, Microsoft is providing the edge and ana-
‘oh crap, we can’t do what we want unless lytics tools. Tamburini comments: “We’re
we move to the edge’,” explains Speed, in talking milliseconds; just imagine: the corn
reference to moves by AWS, Google, IBM, kernel is falling at speed, and the machine
and Microsoft to join the action at various finds time to take a picture, process it, make
points during the past three years. a decision, and take an action.”
“The thing that made them realise was The Bühler solution, called LumoVision,
[machine] vision. They were tackling it by processes 10 to 15 tonnes of maize – or an
taking the data to the cloud, and analysing entire truckload – in an hour. It was tested
it there. That’s okay for a lot of use cases, with Italian agricultural cooperative Capa
but not for all – and vision was the one that Cologna, and shown at Hannover Messe in
broke the camel’s back.” 2018. The phone has been ringing off the
Farshid Sabet, managing director of In- hook ever since.
tel’s vision processor business unit, agrees. But latency and bandwidth constraints
“Right now, we see a confluence of machine do not even have to be combined; stretch-
vision and machine learning,” he comments. ing demand in either direction makes
This confluence is at the edge. The edge computing compulsory. “If you need
volumes of data generated by imaging to shut down a nuclear plant because the
sensors in critical industrial applications temperature goes 0.001 degrees above a
cannot be reasonably processed anywhere Vision – Bühler builds the LumoVision (top) certain level, then you probably want to


% oil
of data m
Offshore – an oil rig in the North Sea; analytics must run locally as there is little or no connectivity, and operators are sensitive to breaches rigs is used for
run that at the edge,” says Tamburini. “That’s why data and reliability, which making
Sometimes, the question is not whether plays on both - MCKINSEY
bandwidth is constrained, but whether it analytics revenues will of these, and data
is even available. In certain out-of-reach in- take off in the next few protection are also
dustrial locales – off-shore oil rigs, out-back driving this digital exodus.
mines, to give the most quoted examples
years – because edge These considerations have, until recent-
– the computing is forcibly confined just computing appeals to these ly, kept wireless networks out of industrial
because the edge is out of range. manufacturers that are plants, and OT separate from IT. Indeed,
At other times, it is imposed because the volume of processed data out of most
communications have been knocked out either very cautious about industrial setups has been flat for 30 years.
completely. ADLINK has good example of data privacy, or else can’t Most is never available for analysis; in-
this. It deployed sensors and sense-making stead, it is stored, and eventually trashed.
solutions on the ground in Puerto Rico after
ship much off premise for AWS quotes findings from McKinsey &
Hurricane Maria tore through in late 2017. regulatory reasons.” Company, which asked offshore oil rigs a
The US Federal Emergency Management few years back how much of their data is
Agency deployed “every emergency gen- Pierce Owen, principal analyst, made valuable. “Less than one per cent is
erator it could lay its hands on”, says Speed, ABI Research ever used for any decision making,” says
to re-establish power to hospitals, schools, Didascalou. “Data generation always hap-
and other services. “But none of them were rapid-paced technology “smash-up”, says pens at the edge; it’s just very little finds its
connected – none were instrumented or Speed, to enable local services to function way into a data centre for analytics.”
monitored,” says Speed. until full power returned. This is still the case, to a greater extent.
ADLINK put engineering boots on the But the combination with edge com-
ground in Puerto Rico to establish an emer- IT/OT CONVERGENCE puting, introducing new reliability to
gency IoT network to manage the power But, actually, bandwidth and latency con- critical IoT applications, means sensitive
reserves. Data from the generators was straints do not even have to be decisive to data can be retained in-house, managed
stored locally, and uploaded to the cloud dictate the migration of industrial intelli- between the shop-floor edge and the
as connectivity flashed in and out. It was a gence to the edge of the network. Network private-cloud edge.


In the end, the only real security is in sol-

CASE STUDY itary confinement, at the edge, comments
Bradicich at HPE. He’s good with analogies,
SEMICONDUCTORS (INTEL) and mixes a couple for us: “If you never
leave your house, you’ll never get hit by a
Semiconductor maker Intel has applied It also needed to identify the be- car. Reagan left the White House, and he got
predictive maintenance to monitor haviour of each FFU through traditional shot – and he had the best security going.”
the health of its fan filter units (FFUs) reporting, including statistics, graphs, While isolationism is impractical in the
through deployment of sensors and and charts based on summary data. real world, it is preferred in the OT world,
edge computing. The idea Intel combined with GE Digital to and workable in the IoT world, with edge
was to alert technicians develop a solution based on Intel’s computing. “If data goes across the ocean,
to potential problems,
define a maintenance
schedule, and reduce
300% ‘Intel IoT’ gateways and GE’s Pre-
dix platform, enabling data pro-
cessing at the edge. Intel placed
across the campus, it’s more vulnerable to
attack,” says Owen at ABI.
“That’s why data and analytics revenues
reduction in
downtime. downtime on an accelerometer at the top of will take off in the next few years. Because
FFUs clean the air manua l each FFU to measure variations edge computing is much more appealing
inside industrial ma- inspections in the fan’s function, creating a to these manufacturers that are either very
chines. Detecting their baseline for comparing data across cautious about the privacy of their data, or
health is a manual process, both the tool and fleet. It also inte- else cannot ship very much off premise for
which makes predicting failures hard. grated accelerometers with gateways regulatory reasons.”
“FFUs represent a single process that and edge applications, and developed Contemporary edge systems provide mech-
is small enough in scope yet large machine learning algorithms to feed on anisms to deliver storage, processing, and
enough in impact to demonstrate a the data. inference at the ‘coal face’, and only release
return on investment in the factory,” Summary data was sent to the cloud summary data to the cloud. In the case of
says Intel. for a view into baselines and trends, and hyper-connected, hyper-animated industrial
They are “exceptional” for demonstrat- a chance to respond to alerts of anom- machines, it is often more practical to send
ing the ROI potential of an edge-com- alies. Intel has reduced downtime from interval-averages, than to send every reading.
puting and cloud-based industrial IoT FFU failures by 300 per cent over manu- Vogel at SAP cites the high sampling rates
solution, it reckons. The company want- al inspection. In parallel, it has increased of modern sensors – 1,000 data points per
ed to move the analytics to the edge FFU uptime by 97 per cent, by ordering second is typical, he says. “The solution is to
in order to reduce data across the net- replacement parts and scheduling pre-process or filter the data at the edge to
work, and manage security. maintenance ahead of time. reduce the data volume. Alternatively the
entire data processing could be done at the
edge. In this case, the edge becomes an on-
site micro data centre.”
EDGE ANALYTICS More than this, momentum is building
Intel IoT Gateway because the technology is improving, with
SENSOR SENSOR SENSOR more sophisticated encryption in the device
GE Predix platform hardware and the transport network. Indus-
trialists, conservative by nature, are more
SUMMARY familiar with it, too. Whisper it, it might even
DATA be that they over-stated the security of their
B own OT and IT in the first place.
EDGE ANALYTICS “They realise, particularly small and me-
Edge – sensors dium OT environments, that they can get
Intel IoT Gateway on the FFUs better security if they trust someone like
measure vibration; Microsoft than with their own OT or IT re-
GE Predix platform
data is passed to an sources. They are coming to terms with the
AI-edge architecture fact they overestimated their IT resources,
to issue alerts and they are more secure if they go to the
commercial cloud.”


Of course, edge computing does not elim- CASE STUDY
inate the value of cloud-based analytical
functions in IoT setups. “The two technol- STEAM
ogies complement each other, to enable
end-to-end industrial IoT solutions,” says
Gross at Software AG. “The edge is where
time-critical data is processed; the cloud is
where data is retrieved, stored, analysed, German company Certuss produces
and sent back.” low-noise steam generators for contin-
Most industrial devices will continue to uous operation. The devices are used
rely on the cloud to store data. Edge com- in various fields of application, includ-
puting helps balance the workload, stops ing to sterilise surgical instruments.
IoT from overwhelming the system, and As they are often involved in multi-
brings faster inference. A standard model stage production, there is a potential
for edge-cloud computing is well estab- for errors that cannot be ignored –
lished already. even minor faults can have a negative
Didascalou at AWS explains: “The pat- impact on the production result. To Jetson – the latest Xavier AI vision module from Nvidia
tern is always the same: data is collected counteract this, Certuss has set up
at the edge, aggregated and analysed in a real-time analytics and predictive “Deep learning is one of
the cloud, and brought back to machines, maintenance service using the Cumu- the most computationally
where smarter decisions are taken.” Training locity IoT platform.
machine learning algorithms is computa- The solution makes it possible to challenging applications
tionally expensive; running them is not. analyse about 60 parameters – pres- ever devised”
Clayton comments: “Deep learning is sure, temperature, water level, for
one of the most computationally challeng- example – for each steam generator Jesse Clayton, senior product manager
ing applications ever devised.” in real time. With the data obtained, for autonomous machines, Nvidia
Speed says: “It might take a week to train predictions can be made as to when
on a piece of hardware at the edge, and and at which point in the production But the balance is shifting fast. “In prac-
just an hour in the cloud.” chain faults will occur. In addition, tice we see many organisations adopting
It is a case of muscle and flexibility. While the required amount of steam can be a hybrid approach, where some analytics is
training is a fitful labour, carried out at a determined via remote configuration, run at the edge, and then metadata is sent
distance; inference is a constant task, or- which in turn can reduce energy costs. to the cloud for higher-level analysis,” com-
ganised close at hand. “Training requires ments Clayton at Nvidia.
a lot of compute, and frequency is limited; ABI Research predicts 52 per cent of in-
you want to recognise and infer all the dustrial organisations engaging the cloud
time,” explains Sabet at Intel. will take a hybrid approach by 2023. “A hy-
Beyond these disciplines, of heavy-duty brid approach is the best way to deal with
analytics and light-touch inference, data data in industrial environments,” says Owen
collection should be maintained between at ABI Research. “It’s an efficient way to
the edge and cloud on a cycle of continu- leverage compute power both at the edge
ous improvement. and the cloud without the costs of publish-
This hybrid architecture, making use of ing every reading to the cloud.”
public and private clouds, will be the de- But there are myriad variables within hy-
fault methodology within five years, reck- brid architectures, particularly at the edge-
ons ABI Research. As it stands, 54 per cent end. “Different use cases require different
of industrial cloud arrangements are with system topologies,” says Clayton.
public facilities, 31 per cent go private, Where, then, within the edge architecture
and 15 per cent leverage both in hybrid does the intelligence lie? An easy answer is
setups that train in the cloud and deploy Edge – manufacturing rapid steam generators hard to find, but the principle is simple: the
at the edge. edge closes around the ‘thing space’ as the


operations become more critical and inten-

sive – or, indeed, more practically discerning.
“It might take a week to train
The hardware platform – typically, an on a piece of hardware at
Intel or Nvidia chipset, powering a Linux the edge, and just an hour in
or Windows operating system, running an
AWS or Azure IoT runtime, hosting an AI the cloud”
model as a container on top – is geed-up ”
and brought closer as these variables be-
come more extreme.
“It will be in the electronics in the ma-
chine, or in a gateway that connects sev-
eral machines; it depends on the scenario,”
says Tamburini. The question of wired /
wireless connectivity is a consideration,
too, he says, depending on the distance
between machine and processor; but the
biggest factor is the processing power em-
bedded into the machine itself. Power – embedded compute modules in industrial machines are bringing higher intelligence to the edge

“It might take a week to train

on a piece of hardware at Private vs public vs hybrid
the edge, and just an hour in
the cloud” cloud architecture
Joe Speed, field chief technology officer
for IoT solutions, ADLINK 52%
of industrialists
using the cloud

Let us consider, briefly, the position and will take a hybrid
portfolio of the two chief protagonists in sil- approach by
icon production for industrial edge devices. 2023 - ABI
Nvidia’s Tesla and DGX products are for
data-centre AI; its Jetson kit, including the
new AGX Xavier AI platform, is designed for
the edge. Its hardware-software combina-
tion makes it possible to deploy AI-powered

robots, drones, intelligent video analytics

applications and other intelligent devices at
scale, says Clayton.
He gives customer references: factory
automation group FANUC has adopted its
GPUs for its ‘intelligent edge link and drive’
(FIELD) IoT platform; auto-parts maker Mu-
sashi is using Jetson for automated optical

inspection; internet retailer JDx has adopt-

ed the same for warehouse robots.
ADLINK is a champion, too; it integrates
Nvidia’s Jetson TX2 modules into its rugged
Neon-J smart camera – the latest in a line of
AI-enabled IoT devices that “collapses the


image sensor, camera senses movement and heat, “Facial recognition is

module, and compute runs image recognition algo-
[function] into a single rithms in response, and alerts becoming more mature –
piece of kit that fits in your park keepers to intervene. computers can recognise
hand,” says Speed. The whole process takes
Meanwhile, in the blue corner, In- minutes. The hardware is dis-
faces as well as humans.
tel’s Xeon-branded processing units cerning and efficient. Only But in audio, there remains
for servers opetrate at either extreme, positive identifications are raised a deficiency – with accents
and its Myriad X processing unit features to the park control room; the rest of
a dedicated neural compute engine for ma- the footage is trashed or stored for later. and noise.”
chine vision applications at the edge. ADLINK is using Intel processors in oth-
Farshid Sabet, managing director,
Myriad X, developed by Intel’s Movidius er members of its Neon family (see image,
division, is designed for low-power, above). “Instead of sending video to the
vision processor business, Intel
small-footprint IoT cameras, but can be cloud, or to other workers, it discerns that
racked in twos, fours, and sixes in ‘vision ac- the door’s open, the door’s closed, that about image segmentation, depth, and
celerator cards’ for beefier IoT applications. it’s a good part; it’s analysing what it sees,” navigation. “Those are the classic challeng-
The Myriad X is in the guts of a new an- explains Speed. es with computer vision,” says Sabet. But the
ti-poaching camera, TrailGuard AI, a minia- It shows the enhanced capacity and strat- technology is advancing, and the challeng-
ture “electronic eyeball”, shown at CES 2019 egy for intelligence at the furthest edge. In es are changing. “Facial recognition is be-
and deployed already on poaching trails in hardware terms, the capability of machines coming more mature – computers can rec-
Africa. The camera takes a picture when it to ‘see’ and select relies on calculations ognise faces as well as humans. >> page 14


Assurance – the HPE / Foxconn machine vision solution by Relimetrics (above) checks server assemblages for
anomalies, flagging them to factory workers in a dashboard (right)


uality assurance is a critical part of “It’s important that part is before they cause delays, and makes good
manufacturing; it’s just humans on Foxconn’s quality promise. “If we say it
are not very good at it. Their fac- correct – otherwise there’ll be will get there on Tuesday, it will get there on
ulties are not trained to pick out a big bang and a squeal from Tuesday.”
anomalies in rapid carousels of industrial On the conveyor in Kutna Hora, every unit
assemblages. More than this, they just can’t
someone inside the vehicle” enters a section for video review; mobile
do it. Modern manufacturing, particularly Steve Fearn, global chief technologist, HPE cameras move into inspect every aspect of
of discrete electronics, is too complex and the unit, from every angle. The cameras are
too various for human eyes. But machine otherwise there’ll be a big bang and a squeal 2D; Foxconn has no requirement for 3D ma-
learning, at the edge, is turning fallible old from someone inside the vehicle.” chine vision at the site, as yet. Its machine
production checks into fail-safe new produc- He shows another image, this time of a learning is trained in the cloud and executed
tivity gains. carbon sample from a Formula One car; it’s on site. Anything that does not pass muster
Case in point: HPE and Foxconn have de- somehow critical, but it could be anything. – “damaged components, missing compo-
veloped a machine version of Where’s Wally? The stakes are high, and humans are falli- nents, foreign objects, incorrect configura-
to discern the production-line equivalent ble, he explains. “Things are getting smaller, tions” – goes to a human referee. Any ques-
striped hats in grey boxes, and raise the things are getting more varied, and yet we tion, and it is seized for a second opinion,
alarm. It is a symbiotic arrangement, using need more precision.” The Foxconn cus- and either righted and re-entered, or else
HPE edge components to automate quali- tom-and-supply circle has been put to work held back; the production lines keeps chug-
ty assurance on a Foxconn production line at Foxconn’s European manufacturing facili- ging along all the while.
carrying HPE servers. The new system, devel- ty in Kutna Hora, in the Czech Republic. John Nothing goes to waste. The facility has
oped with video analytics firm Realmetrics, Gallagher, operations manager of Foxconn, moved away from a “he-said, she-said” de-
is being positioned as a support line for the is in charge. “Quality underpins everything velopment path, says Fearn, towards itera-
standing workforce, to relieve it of duties it that we do,” he says. tive production based on hard data. “Varia-
was never qualified for in the first place. “It’s But, as with discrete manufacturing, its tion is the killer; we can now capture every
always there, and it’s always checking,” says products are complex, its batch sizes are configuration and every fault and improve
Steve Fearn, global chief technologist at HPE. small, its production is swift, and its sched- the manufacturing process.”
Machines bring precision and control, and ule is packed. The Kutna Hora line for HPE Foxconn is working to run the same vid-
they are eminently biddable – the Foxconn servers jumps to a new configuration every eo checks on individual assembly stages, to
system won’t rush the work to clock-off ear- three or four units; 50-60 per cent of its units identify at an earlier stage in the production
ly, “to get home to the family”. We encoun- are shipped within 24 hours of joining the process. “We would basically break down the
ter him at an HPE showcase in Geneva; he assembly line. “We’ve got people inspecting, analytics one by one, and then eliminate the
shows a picture of a slide from a Space X and they miss a lot of things,” says Gallagh- need for a final inspection,” comments Gal-
product. “It’s important that part is correct – er. The new edge system catches the faults lagher.


But in audio, there remains a deficiency – another, and they talk to each other
with accents and noise,” he says. without any kind of translation,” says
Sabet gives parallel examples of ‘live’ Tamburini at Microsoft.
analysis of motion and mood: a securi- This is where ADLINK plays, as the oil in
ty camera that computes and connects the engine, to translate between different
when a robber comes into view; a baby communication and software protocols.
monitor that records and uploads when Interoperability remains a challenge for
a newborn breaks into a smile; a vehicle the major cloud players, too, it notes – de-
camera that sounds an alarm when the spite their convergence around the same
driver’s eyes get heavy. edge IoT architecture and technology,
What about in the case of the corn-ker- most notably with Google’s open-source
nel sorter, presented earlier, and other ex- machine learning framework, TensorFlow.
treme industrial IoT deployments: where is Each has developed its own programming
the intelligence at? It is down to the ‘thing’ interfaces (APIs); each is making “different
itself, explains Tamburini. “The fastest re- decisions” around security. “There’s some
sponse is close to the sensors and actua- nuance,” says Speed. “At a 10,000 foot lev-
tors; with Bühler, it is on the device itself, el, it’s all the same, but it is quite different
running a beefy chip with lots of memory “The fastest response is when you get into the detail.”
and processing power.” But the cloud players have settled on
close to the sensors and an edge IoT architecture, at least, and
REMAINING BARRIERS actuators – on the device momentum is building around OPC-UA
It is worth noting, before we sign off, that itself, running a beefy chip and MTConnect as complementary http
the work is far from done. The migration of protocols, where the first defines the
industrial intelligence to the edge is just be- with lots of memory and communications pipeline and the second
ginning, as the various forecasts quoted in processing power.” defines the payload. MQTT, a lightweight
this article attest. The fragmentation of the sensor protocol, is also commonly used
IoT market makes it hard to make money Diego Tamburini, principal industry lead for ‘on-ramp’ to the cloud. “You may think
from, for starters, putting a dampener on for manufacturing, Microsoft Azure the standards are still fragmented. But it’s
progress. “If you want to be the next Mark complete progress compared to years ago,
Zuckerberg or Elon Musk, don’t go in to when everyone had their own proprietary
IoT,” Wienke Giezeman, chief executive and seen multiple protocols take root; major protocols and technologies,” comments
co-founder of Amsterdam based LoRaWAN configuration is still required with most Speed at ADLINK.
collective The Things Network, told Enter- industrial IoT deployments just to have Tamburini at Microsoft is more cautious.
prise IoT Insights recently. machines ‘talk’ the same language. “There is some consolidation, but it is far
Significantly, the lack of standards makes “We are a long way from the plug- from ubiquitous,” he says. “Standards are
it hard for startups to scale. That complex- and-play scenario where you connect a like toothbrushes – everybody needs one,
ity is compounded in the industrial space, robot from one vendor and a lathe from no one wants to share.” Even, so, he ob-
where a policy of isolationism, serves “a lot of momentum”, especially as
already discussed, has industrial machinery is upgraded and the
edge takes a more common form.


ADLINK Technology is a global leader in Edge Computing, with solutions

that drive data-to-decision applications and support the transition to
connected IIoT systems across industries.

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