New terms are constantly appearing in IT. One of them is that of the edge computer. These are compact computers that are assigned a particular task. An edge computer often carries out this task fully automatically.
Among other things, the system is part of the physical platform for implementing IoT strategies. But an edge computer is more than that. Part of the concept is to provide direct data processing capability at the point of use. A direct connection to the network is also part of the edge computer.
This is what characterises an Edge Computer
In general, the requirements for an edge computer are quickly described. Such systems must be as small as possible and, above all, reliable. They are sometimes installed in places where space is limited and IT support is far away.
An important point is the network capability; otherwise, integration into the IT structures is not possible. Furthermore, it must also be economical to maintain. Edge computers often run around the clock at comparatively low workloads.
Energy-efficient components are, therefore, mandatory to keep operating costs low. In this context, fanless systems are a good option. These have the additional benefit of not emitting any noise. At the same time, the elimination of mechanical components increases reliability.
In summary, an edge computer must meet the following criteria:
- Small and compact
- Low operating costs
- As quiet as possible or even noiseless
Local instead of central – the idea behind edge computing
The trend in recent years has been towards centralised management of data and services. Cloud computing is on everyone’s lips. Edge computing basically goes in the opposite direction. The idea is to provide computing power at the edge of a network structure. This also explains the English term “edge”.
However, edge computing is not an alternative or counter-strategy to cloud computing. Rather, the two methods go hand in hand. Edge computers at the edge of the network are deeply integrated into the infrastructure and often interact directly with the cloud. Thus, these edge computers send their data directly to the cloud, where it is then centrally available.
IoT and Edge Computing in Practice
There are numerous possible uses for edge computing and many deal with the Internet of Things. These compact and low-power platforms can automatically perform tasks, process data locally, and send processed results over the network.
This creates self-sufficient data processing points at the edge of the cloud that provide exactly the needed computing power. The list of examples of IoT applications is already long today. In combination with the edge computing approach, these systems open up new possibilities for decentralised data processing.
Another interesting point is the automation of processes. In this context, practice often shows the effective implementation of edge computing and IoT. This applies, for example, to the integration of systems outside the typical IT environment.
Edge systems with IoT are already being used in facility management. Even objects like paper towel dispensers or mousetraps are integrated into networks via IoT and edge computing. However, there are many more applications for edge computers beyond IoT.
With such a system, you control digital advertising spaces or information boards. These are also located at the edge of the infrastructure. As a DooH computer, an edge system connects these display systems with the IT. This way, the remote control is possible, which increases functionality and service quality.
Integration of edge computers into network structures
A central function of edge computers is communication. The system sends the collected and processed information to the intended destination via networks. This is one of the key points in the concept of edge computing. Therefore, the point of integration into the networks is crucial.
Projects stand and fall with the capability and reliability of digital data transmission. A wired connection is not always possible. Especially in the area of IoT and edge computing, the systems are often located away from the central network structures.
Then the flexibility of the edge computer is in demand. That’s why the Prime Mini IoT has a conventional Ethernet connection and WLAN and Bluetooth. This gives you all the freedom you need to integrate the Prime Mini IoT into the network.
Possible uses for edge computers
The compact systems can be used not only in the IoT environment. A PrimeMini IoT or PrimeMini 5 has all the features required for use as a thin client. Such systems are a viable alternative in many areas. Here, low energy consumption, compact dimensions, and silence are essential.
At reception desks or in retail outlets, such a system combines a workstation’s performance with the benefits of a thin client. Your customers won’t be bothered by the level of noise from fans or the sight of a large PC. Simultaneously, you have access to cloud applications, software, and other features of a fully-fledged computer.
Edge gateways – the connection between the IoT and traditional IT
IoT often breaks out of the boundaries of classic IT. This is one of the strengths of the concept. IoT brings applications and data into a digital form that are usually incompatible with IT. Edge computers play a central role in this area and take on important functions.
In this way, IoT and edge computing connect physical and virtual objects. This is often referred to as an edge gateway. The edge computer simultaneously functions as an intermediary device between networks. Without this gateway, the different networks are not compatible. This is due to different protocols or device standards.
Here, too, there are many practical use cases. Sensors exist in many areas. They carry out their measurements on the spot and only provide the results there. A good example is a temperature or level measurement sensors. Normally, these sensors do not have interfaces for integration into networks.
Connected to an edge computer, these conventional sensors are transformed into smart IoT devices. The computer serves as an edge gateway and records the data. Further processing is also possible directly on site. In the case of a temperature sensor, the edge computer can check whether the values remain within a predefined range.
The Edge Gateway then transfers the collected information to the cloud. There, this data is effectively available in real-time. In combination with an application, other usage options are also open. For example, you can have an alarm sent if a sensor measures values outside the tolerance limits.
Creativity and innovation are a reality with edge computers
In modern IT, an edge computer such as the PrimeMini IoT can be used for a wide range of individual applications. This is where the creativity of your company and your IT department is needed.
It is important to have an idea of possible applications. Wherever processes take place away from IT structures, it is worth checking. It may be possible to digitise these via an edge computer. Individual software development plays an important role here.
With low- or no-code platforms, personalised applications are created in a short time. Especially in edge computing, it is straightforward to create such applications with your own resources. Often, such an app only needs a few functions to deliver exactly what you need.
Edge Computing and Microsoft Azure
A central software completes the construct of edge computing. This takes over the organisation of the structures and data management. With Azure, Microsoft offers exactly such a platform.
Azure brings the necessary tools for local data processing, latency-sensitive data analytics, and media services, as well as IoT applications. Real-time analytics become possible via Azure.
The rollout of apps on the edge computer is done via Azure. Containers are used for this. This enables central management and control of the edge systems via Azure. Furthermore, Azure builds the bridge to one of the next revolutions in the IT world, namely artificial intelligence.
On the one hand, Azure organises communication between machine and machine. On the other hand, the platform offers possibilities for the integration of AI and machine learning. This allows adaptive maintenance based on feedback from the edge system.
The Prime Mini IoT from Prime Computer has an Azure IoT Edge certification. This makes the PrimeMini IoT an ideal platform for an edge infrastructure based on Microsoft Azure. If you are interested in edge computing, get in touch with Prime Computer now.
The Edge Platforms from Prime Computer
In the Prime Computer portfolio, you will find solutions designed to meet the requirements of edge computing. These include, first and foremost, the Prime Mini IoT. The compact Prime Mini IoT is predestined for use in edge computing.
The complete mini-PC measures only 17.7 by 3.4 by 11.4 centimetres. This allows installation in areas where space is limited. In addition, a VESA bracket is available. So you can attach it to the back of a monitor. The Prime Mini IoT is also economical.
The system was designed with a focus on highly energy-efficient operation. The processor has a power dissipation (TDP) of six watts so that the PrimeMini IoT is economical even under full load. Edge computers should be as low-maintenance as possible.
Here too, PrimeMini IoT and PrimeMini 5 score points with their fanless concept. This eliminates the need for mechanical components that are prone to failure. The closed all-aluminium housing is another benefit for edge computing. This makes the systems dirt-resistant, which protects the components inside from dust.
The benefits of the PrimeMini IoT in edge computing:
- Versatile use with the compact housing
- Completely silent due to the fanless concept
- Azure IoT Edge Certification
- Citrix certification
- Low operating costs due to high energy efficiency
- Reliable in operation, as no mechanical components are present
- Versatile integration into networks
- Environmentally friendly and thus suitable for a green IT strategy
- Robust and dirt-resistant with the closed aluminium housing
- VESA mount allows versatile installation
Performance – often not the most important factor in edge computing
When it comes to computers, people always look at maximum performance. The focus here is on CPU performance. This factor is less critical in edge computing than in most other areas.
It is more important to provide exactly the performance that is needed. This has a positive effect on power consumption. This point is in the foreground with edge computers. Economic systems reduce operating costs.
Modern processors such as those from the Intel Celeron series in the PrimeMini IoT provide sufficient performance for edge computing applications. The multi-core processors are capable of executing many tasks simultaneously without reaching their performance limits.
If you need more CPU power, the PrimeMini 5 is available as an option. Processors up to the Intel Core i7 series are available for the PrimeMini 5. These have four CPU cores and are designed for multitasking.