Microsoft Azure IoT Edge: Empowering Connected Manufacturing

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The Industrial Internet of Things is an important tool which empowers manufacturers with end-to-end, real-time insights and recommendations about their production and other business processes.

To put it simply, Azure IoT Edge represents a unique offering that allows users to harness the capabilities of IIoT whilst operating at the so-called “edge” of the network. This means the system switches from cloud-based to offline modes based on the different conditions it operates in.

Not that long ago, live operational data was transmitted from connected industrial devices to the Cloud, where AI services derived insights and sent them back to an organization’s ERP system. This kind of data flow had its drawbacks, though – disconnected or partially connected devices would lose the ability to make real-time updates, and the bandwidth costs caused by transferring huge amounts of data to and from the Cloud were by no means modest.

The role of Azure IoT Edge is to overcome these kinds of problems by transforming cloud-based tasks into ones solvable by the so-called “edge” devices. Let’s take a closer look at what that means.

Defining edge computing

Edge computing is the processing and analysis of data on premises (at the edge of the network) and, most importantly, close to the sources of data. We’re talking about a capability that is applicable to many industries and is especially useful for optimizing all kinds of manufacturing business processes.

For example, imagine a factory plant powered by connected devices – data collected from them is sent to the Cloud, processed and then sent back to ERP systems in order to drive quicker and better decision making. If there’s a delay of even a few seconds between the system and the Cloud analyzing data, there could be serious operational consequences and companies could lose a significant part of their profits.

As Erich Barnstedt, Principal Software Engineering Lead at Microsoft, puts it:

Azure IoT Edge allows cloud services to be run locally, enabling instantaneous response times, so performance-critical decisions can be made in milliseconds rather than seconds. All processing happens locally, eliminating the latency incurred by sending data to the cloud, processing it, and then sending the insights back to the edge. Azure IoT Edge also ensures that data analysis continues even when the Internet connection is intermittent.

Why use Microsoft Azure IoT Edge?

Virtually every manufacturing company can greatly benefit from Azure IoT Edge, as it enables a plethora of AI scenarios which have the ability to run on local devices and simultaneously reduce waiting times.

Instead of seconds, calculations and analyses now take milliseconds, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but could drastically improve manufacturers’ profit margins. By eliminating the time it takes to transmit data to the cloud and back to your organization, Azure IoT Edge provides instantaneous results.

Machine Learning features can also be employed in offline IoT scenarios that require real-time responses, which wasn’t the case in the past. Not being dependent on internet connectivity means users are provided with crucial decision-driving information – which enables operations to run uninterruptedly.

IoT solution costs are also decreased thanks to the nature of Azure IoT edge. Transmitting all your data to the Cloud can prove extremely expensive, especially with manufacturing facilities in remote places where internet access is more costly.

Microsoft Azure IoT Edge is essentially a step forward in the world of connected manufacturing. Processing data nearer to the source, empowering users to make decisions in the blink of an eye, and getting AI and Machine Learning processes to work regardless of your internet connectivity are more than compelling reasons to try out this solution.

If you want to learn more specifics about the features of Azure IoT Edge and how to use it, click  here.

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