The cloud has enabled phenomenal digital transformation advancements. With infrastructure in the cloud, businesses can take advantage of power-hungry platforms, such as big data analysis, without purchasing and maintaining on-site data centers and scaling much easier. However, sending all data to the cloud isn’t practical for every application. In some cases, bandwidth may not be available or increasing it may be cost-prohibitive, and regulatory compliance may make it necessary to keep data on-site. In other situations, latency related to sending data to the cloud creates a lag from input to action, which is unacceptable in use cases, such as autonomous vehicles where employees could step into their paths or smoke that triggers locking a fire door. To overcome those challenges, solutions providers are developing systems that leverage edge computing and touchscreen technology to enable data processing close to the source, real-time decision-making, and immediate action.
Edge computing has become more practical than it was several years ago. In line with Moore’s Law, computer modules have decreased in size and perform the work that large-scale components did previously. It’s now possible to enable artificial intelligence (AI) at the edge and build IoT systems with edge computing capabilities in small devices, even those used in harsh environments.
Industries Where Edge Computing Is In Demand
Solution providers will find opportunities to meet the growing demand for edge computing solutions in a number of markets and industries, including:
- Manufacturing : Enterprises continually look for a competitive edge by enhancing operations with speed and automation. Edge computing gives connected systems the ability to use data near the source to analyze equipment performance and health, monitor production, and ensure quality. Edge computing can enhance processes on an assembly line as well as provide data to cobots that help employees increase their productivity. Edge computing can also power solutions that enforce the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), for example, denying entry into hazardous areas if an employee isn’t wearing a hard hat.
- Retail : The pandemic drove sweeping changes in how consumers interact with retailers. Edge computing and AI machine learning give retailers the capability to monitor temperatures and ensure store traffic doesn’t exceed safe capacity. Beyond health safety applications, edge computing also has the potential to provide substantial benefits to retailers by creating personalized experiences at kiosks based on the shopper’s demographics or offering services via interactive signage, resulting in enhanced customer experiences and loyalty.
- Healthcare : AI at the edge gives healthcare the ability to monitor patients, even from their homes, analyze data and send alerts to their physicians or take action such as calling for assistance or recommending medications. Edge computing can enable close monitoring around the clock and lead to better outcomes.
Keep in mind, however, that as other markets look for ways to automate and access real-time data insights, opportunities will emerge there as well. Edge computing can deliver value anywhere people make decisions based on continually changing data or can benefit from automating repetitive tasks.
Touchscreen Technology Continues to Be the Optimal Interface
Edge and IoT systems deliver speed, reliability, automation, and computing power, but they also need to include an easy way for people to interact with them. The logical solution is a touchscreen interface.
Touchscreen technology allows operators on the shop floor to check machine status by tapping a screen instead of using a keypad. It also allows shoppers to interact with interactive signage and kiosks or home healthcare providers to access data securely using a fingerprint. Consumer-facing organizations can use touchscreens to give people a way to engage and enter information or requests. And businesses can use touchscreens to increase efficiency and streamline workflows.
As you design advanced systems that leverage edge computing, ensure you provide your users with the most intuitive interface to enhance the speed and efficiency your solution can deliver.
Advice for Solutions Providers
All the hardware you need to create edge IoT systems is available today, and innovation continues. Computer modules will continue to increase in processing power, making it even easier to have machine learning (ML) and other forms of AI at the edge and to provide new capabilities to IoT networks.
However, one thing will remain the same: People expect screens to be interactive. From consumers to employees within an organization, they’ll touch the screen, and if it doesn’t respond, their experience will be diminished.
Look for opportunities to benefit businesses by helping them move computing to the edge and quickly access the information they need with touchscreen technology.
Jason Ford leads development, engineering, and support functions at MicroTouch. Since joining the company in January 2022, his focus has been on expanding its support infrastructure and boosting the product development strategy for the MicroTouch portfolio. He brings more than 25 years of experience in purpose-built hardware and software solutions for the point-of-sale and retail markets. Before MicroTouch, Jason held senior positions at Oracle Corporation and Elo, working on teams that developed many industry firsts, such as the first touch-enabled iMac.