In their most recent podcast, Computing at the Edge, Executive Editor Jim Montague interview’s Emerson Chief Technology Officer, Peter Zornio, about the edge of process automation and control systems and how it’s changed from traditional distributed control. There is also a transcript of the interview in a post, Control Amplified: Computing on the edge.
Here are some of the points that Peter made in the interview. When asked if edge computing was just another name for distributed control, Peter explained:
…fundamentally, when people say edge computing they mean running an application or software to analyze data close to the source of where the data is generated, and basically, that’s exactly what we have done for many years with distributed control and DCS systems and PLCs.
So, yes, edge computing in some ways to us in automation really is distributed control in new clothes, but it’s not unique in being the only thing that I see being relabeled in the bold world of digital transformation. Digital twin is one of those terms that’s very popular now and it really is the modeling that we’ve been doing in automation for a long time, the idea of having a digital model of something that you can run applications against. People love to use the term AI and ML, and we’ve been doing a number of things in that space already with things like fuzzy logic. You always hear about algorithms, or sorry, we always used to talk about algorithms, and now of course, that term has been swept up in the whole terminology around analytics…
Peter’s view on the definition of “edge”:
…edge I think is one of those terms that were invented as we started talking about IoT and digital transformation, and, to me, it was a term invented by the IT folks who knew about data centers, knew about cloud computing, but this idea of actually pushing computing down to where data was being generated was a new idea to them.
Peter shared why users should care. Both edge computing and the cloud:
…have a very important role to play in a typical architecture. Both are going to coexist and both will continue to coexist well into the future because they have certain advantages compared to the other computing approach… Edge computing basically means that you don’t have to go through the transmission of your data to some application over the Internet…
Many times you don’t have the bandwidth to send all the data to some remote computing resource… A lot of people feel better from a security point of view when data is retained locally, and results are generated locally… There’s no dependency on internet or communication of the cloud if you have something that requires an extremely fast execution or fast sampling rate…
Listen to the podcast and subscribe to the Control Amplified podcast series in your favorite podcast player for more on Peter’s thoughts on the advantages of certain types of applications running in the cloud versus out at the edge, security considerations, what should go where, Internet of Things devices, and more.
Learn more about information architectures in the Industrial IOT section on Emerson.com. You can also connect and interact with other digital architecture experts in the IIoT & Digital Transformation group in the Emerson Exchange 365 community.