The Cloud Dominates, But Edge Computing Dawns

Wu Fengheng / Yicai

2016-12-07

(Yicai Global) Dec. 7 -- Cloud computing has dominated the internet, but there may be an urgent need for another computing system in the industrial and operating technology fields -- edge computing, industry insiders said.

“For traditional cloud computing, once you click the button, the backend will compute and respond to you,” said Liu Shaowei, president of Huawei technology Co.’s network research and development division. “But many applications need real-time responses in milliseconds, and we cannot send everything to the cloud. Because the cloud may be thousands of kilometers away, delays are uncontrollable.”

That’s where edge computing, which refers to data processing at the edge of a network rather than having that processing power in a cloud or a central database, comes in.

“What will the edge of the future look like? Sometimes it’s quite hard to imagine,” said Yu Haibin, president of Shenyang Institute of Automation, Chinese Academy of Sciences. “But we believe manufacturing has reached such a stage of demand: shorter product lifecycles, higher personalized needs, and the clear trend toward full-lifecycle management and services.”

Some large companies have already launched their edge computing efforts in the field of Internet of Things. For example, Huawei has entered the power, elevator and other sectors. “There are more than 15 million elevators around the world, but every day there’ll be some out of order,” Liu said. “By using the Internet of Things, their efficiency can be increased by 50 percent or more, while greatly reducing the failure rate.”

“We did a survey and found that there’s a USD5 billion market space for communications networks in the field of Internet of Things in Power Systems,” he said. “This is only for the electricity sector’s network market. There are three other sectors in the power industry, including generation, transmission, and distribution.”

In the future, the entire edge computing industry may embrace a huge market, but no one can accurately estimate its market capacity. The market is too big, and the number of industries involved and enterprises in need of digitalization are too many.

Liu believes that the market’s potential cannot be monopolized by one or even a few companies. “It involves different areas, and also relates to information technology and communication technology support. In fact, we need to cooperate with each other for innovation and solutions,” he said.

At the same time, large tech firms also hope to speed up market maturity by way of alliances and finding more suitable positions for themselves. Huawei, Intel Inc., ARM Holdings Plc and other companies recently set up such a partnership.