What Is Edge Computing?

Edge computing is a transformative technology that is reshaping the way data is processed, analysed, and delivered from millions of devices around the world. It involves the decentralisation of computing resources by bringing them closer to the location where data is generated. If you need to find out more about edge computing, you may need to speak to IT support experts who will be able to advise you and help you.


How Was Edge Computing Developed?


The development of edge computing can be traced back to the limitations of traditional cloud computing architectures. As the number of Internet of Things (IoT) devices and data-generating sources surged, it became apparent that centralised data processing in cloud data centres was insufficient to handle the sheer volume and latency requirements of modern applications.


Early Beginnings and Evolution


Initially, cloud computing emerged as a solution to provide scalable and on-demand computing resources. However, as applications became more data-intensive and latency-sensitive, the need for faster data processing at the source became critical. This gave rise to edge computing, a paradigm that pushes computing resources to the “edge” of the network, closer to the end-users and devices.


Key Milestones


  • Fog Computing: Introduced by Cisco in 2012, fog computing laid the groundwork for edge computing by extending cloud capabilities to the network edge. It aimed to reduce latency and bandwidth usage by processing data locally
  • Mobile Edge Computing (MEC): Around the same time, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) developed the MEC framework to enhance the performance of mobile networks by bringing computational resources closer to mobile users
  • IoT Expansion: The rapid proliferation of IoT devices further propelled the need for edge computing. Devices ranging from smart home gadgets to industrial sensors generate vast amounts of data, necessitating real-time processing


Why is Edge Computing Important?


Edge computing addresses several critical challenges posed by traditional cloud computing models. Its importance is underscored by the growing demand for faster, more reliable, and secure data processing.


Reduced Latency


One of the primary advantages of edge computing is its ability to significantly reduce latency. By processing data closer to its source, edge computing minimises the time it takes for data to travel to a central server and back. This is particularly crucial for applications such as autonomous vehicles, industrial automation, and augmented reality, where milliseconds can make a difference.


Bandwidth Efficiency


As the number of connected devices increases, so does the volume of data transmitted over networks. Edge computing alleviates the burden on network bandwidth by processing data locally and only sending relevant information to the cloud. This reduces congestion and lowers the costs associated with data transmission.

Enhanced Security and Privacy


Edge computing enhances security and privacy by keeping sensitive data closer to its source. By processing data locally, edge devices reduce the exposure of sensitive information to potential cyber threats during transmission. Additionally, decentralised data processing makes it more challenging for attackers to compromise a single point of failure.


Real-Time Processing


Edge computing enables real-time data processing and decision-making, which is essential for time-sensitive applications. For instance, in healthcare, real-time analysis of patient data can lead to timely interventions and improved outcomes. Similarly, in manufacturing, real-time monitoring and predictive maintenance can prevent costly downtime.


What Are the Key Components of Edge Computing?


Edge computing consists of several key components that work together to deliver its benefits. These components include edge devices, edge gateways, edge servers, and edge platforms.


Edge Devices


Edge devices are the endpoints that generate data and may also perform initial data processing. These devices include sensors, cameras, actuators, smartphones, and other IoT gadgets. They collect data from their environment and may execute simple processing tasks before sending data to edge gateways or servers.


Edge Gateways


Edge gateways act as intermediaries between edge devices and edge servers. They aggregate data from multiple edge devices, perform data preprocessing, and ensure secure communication with edge servers or the cloud. Edge gateways often have more computational power than individual edge devices, allowing them to handle more complex processing tasks.


Edge Servers


Edge servers are located closer to the edge of the network, typically within the same geographic region as the edge devices. They provide more substantial computational resources than edge gateways and are capable of handling intensive data processing and analytics. Edge servers reduce the load on central cloud servers by processing and storing data locally.


Edge Platforms


Edge platforms provide the software infrastructure required to manage and orchestrate edge computing resources. These platforms enable seamless integration of edge devices, gateways, and servers, offering capabilities such as device management, data analytics, and application deployment. Leading edge platforms include Microsoft Azure IoT Edge, AWS IoT Greengrass, and Google Cloud IoT Edge.


What Are the Challenges of Edge Computing?


Despite its numerous advantages, edge computing also presents several challenges that must be addressed to fully realise its potential.




Managing a vast number of edge devices distributed across different locations poses significant scalability challenges. Ensuring consistent performance, security, and reliability across a decentralised network requires robust management and orchestration solutions.




Edge computing involves a diverse ecosystem of devices and platforms, often from different manufacturers. Achieving interoperability and seamless integration among these heterogeneous components is essential for the success of edge computing deployments.




While edge computing can enhance security by reducing data exposure, it also introduces new security risks. Edge devices are often more vulnerable to physical tampering and cyberattacks. Implementing robust security measures, including encryption, authentication, and secure communication protocols, is critical to protect edge computing environments.


Data Management


Efficiently managing and processing vast amounts of data generated by edge devices is a complex task. Data consistency, quality, and integrity must be maintained across distributed edge nodes. Additionally, determining what data should be processed at the edge versus what should be sent to the cloud requires intelligent data management strategies.




Deploying and maintaining edge computing infrastructure can be costly, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises. Investment in edge devices, gateways, servers, and management platforms, along with ongoing operational expenses, must be justified by the benefits achieved through edge computing.


What Are the Use Cases of Edge Computing?


Edge computing has a wide range of applications across various industries. Its ability to provide real-time data processing, low latency, and enhanced security makes it suitable for numerous use cases.


Autonomous Vehicles


Autonomous vehicles rely on real-time data processing to make split-second decisions. Edge computing allows these vehicles to process data from sensors and cameras locally, reducing latency and ensuring quick response times. This capability is crucial for safe and efficient autonomous driving.


Smart Cities


Smart cities utilise edge computing to enhance urban infrastructure and services. Applications such as traffic management, environmental monitoring, and public safety benefit from real-time data analysis at the edge. For example, traffic cameras can process video feeds locally to detect congestion and adjust traffic signals accordingly.


Industrial Automation


In industrial settings, edge computing enables predictive maintenance, quality control, and process optimisation. By analysing data from sensors and machines in real time, edge computing can detect anomalies, predict equipment failures, and optimise production processes, leading to increased efficiency and reduced downtime.




Edge computing is transforming healthcare by enabling remote patient monitoring, telemedicine, and real-time diagnostics. Wearable devices and sensors collect patient data, which is processed locally to provide immediate insights. This allows healthcare providers to monitor patients continuously and intervene promptly when necessary.




In the retail industry, edge computing enhances customer experiences and operational efficiency. Smart shelves, digital signage, and point-of-sale systems utilise edge computing to analyse customer behaviour, manage inventory, and personalise marketing efforts. This leads to improved customer satisfaction and increased sales.


What is the Future of Edge Computing?


The future of edge computing is promising, with continued advancements in technology and increasing adoption across industries. Several trends and developments are shaping the future of edge computing.


Integration with 5G


The rollout of 5G networks is expected to accelerate the adoption of edge computing. The high bandwidth and low latency offered by 5G complement edge computing by enabling faster data transmission and processing. This combination will unlock new possibilities for applications such as augmented reality, virtual reality, and smart manufacturing.


AI and Machine Learning at the Edge


Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are becoming integral to edge computing. Deploying AI and ML models at the edge allows for real-time data analysis and decision-making. This is particularly valuable in scenarios where quick responses are required, such as in autonomous systems and predictive maintenance.


Edge-to-Cloud Continuum


The edge-to-cloud continuum represents an integration between edge and cloud computing. In this model, data processing tasks are dynamically allocated between the edge and the cloud based on factors such as latency requirements, data volume, and computational resources. This hybrid approach maximises efficiency and flexibility.


Edge Computing Standards


The development of industry standards for edge computing is expected to drive interoperability and adoption. Standardisation efforts, such as the OpenFog Consortium and the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), aim to establish guidelines and best practices for edge computing deployments.


Increased Adoption in Emerging Markets


Emerging markets are expected to see significant growth in edge computing adoption. As these regions develop their digital infrastructure, edge computing can provide scalable and cost-effective solutions for applications such as smart agriculture, energy management, and public health.