Edge Computing for SMBs in Healthcare, Retail, and Construction: Sense or Nonsense?

There are good reasons to push workloads to the edge: real-time applications don’t tolerate lag, and intensive data analytics can quickly negatively affect the user experience. Remember that some companies prefer or are required to keep sensitive data on-premises rather than in the cloud. Does edge computing make sense for SMEs? We give some examples.

Edge Computing emerged with the growth and demand for the Internet of Things (IoT). It is an architecture that places fast computing power or storage capacity close to the data source, such as a sensor or camera. Whether you’re looking for control units connected to a cloud platform over the Internet or small data centers on a campus, there’s one thing all uses have in common. Edge Computing enables faster response times compared to a central data center connection and reduces the volume of data in the cloud when needed through local data processing. Small and medium-sized businesses often use their own computing resources as independent nodes of their IT to overcome slow Internet connections or insufficient bandwidth. This is essential because anything that slows down fast data processing puts them behind their competitors.

If you, as an SME, are dealing with the US CLOUD Act

Another great advantage of edge computing is that both autonomy and control of the data are preserved at all times; what data remains local and what is sent to the cloud. This protects personal data and equally important critical business information in general and in particular when the US CLOUD Act takes effect. Remember that US authorities can require data disclosure even if it violates a country’s law, such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It applies in the EU and protects data in the country of processing. Since the end of the so-called ‘Privacy Shield’, all US cloud platform providers are required by the US CLOUD Act to hand over all of their user data to US federal authorities on request This applies not only to personal data, but also to company-related data, even if this data is stored in a data center within the EU and is actually protected by the GDPR.

it’s not all the same

Edge computing has many usage scenarios and different system requirements. Let’s leave out the more obvious things, like production and autonomous driving. Edge computing is clearly driving multi-tier digital transformation. Its integration into a wide range of business processes not only increases efficiency but also safety. How? Let’s look at some examples:

Enhanced security in remote or dangerous areas

Warehouses or construction sites in remote locations require protection against unauthorized access for a number of reasons, whether it be protection against theft of stored goods or access control for a potentially dangerous construction site. In order not to have to keep staff on site, these places often have a stand-alone access control system combined with surveillance cameras on the edge to allow communication with a central gate. In an industrial setting, hazardous location safety features become a reality. Think, for example, of emergency buttons for personnel, or an analysis of movement near a dangerous area. Edge computing can even automatically check if security equipment is being used. If a hazard is detected, the software immediately issues a rule-based alarm so that appropriate action can be taken before something happens or people get hurt. Data protection is also not a problem, because most of this type of data is deleted immediately.

More digitization in branches

In retail or restaurant chain branches, edge computing typically integrates multiple computers, POS systems, and other devices into the corporate network. Customer data is on site and local availability ensures a positive customer experience. For example, edge computing allows marketing to directly communicate and interact with customers and visitors via Bluetooth and WLAN. Edge Computing gives banks the ability to use facial recognition technologies and virtual customer advisors in their self-service zones without violating strict data protection rules. By processing data on the fly, Edge ensures fast response times and helps further reduce branch visits by online banking fans, as well as the piles of paper still generated during manual processes.

More efficient use of inventory and patient management in healthcare

The medical Internet of Things on a private edge cloud simplifies inventory management, location, and patient management across the healthcare industry. GDPR compliance and special protection of sensitive patient data is a top priority. As is often the case, healthcare isn’t about edge or cloud computing, it’s about data management strategies. They determine where to use cloud and edge computing strategically, based on individual requirements, costs, and benefits. Thanks to a growing number of medical devices, the average hospital now produces more than 50 petabytes of data per year. Therefore, the edge data center is particularly important here to optimize clinical and operational values. Connecting to a cloud platform, in turn, enables AI-assisted analytics, and networking with other institutions creates more significant synergies and financial benefits.

System Requirements

A critical feature of all edge computing solutions is that they run largely autonomously on premises and are centrally managed. Like any other infrastructure solution, edge devices must be suitable for the corresponding environmental conditions. Additionally, the list contains adjectives related to requirements, such as compact, fail-safe, protected against cyberattacks, and unauthorized access. Of course, any new edge computing solution must be scalable and quickly adapt to new requirements and applications.

Caption: Sebastian Nölting CEO RNT Rausch

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