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The Future of Cloud Enabled Edge Devices

Consumer expectations always affect our industry. As consumers, we expect to easily connect a smart home device to secure cloud services with minimal effort. That device is then accessible from anywhere in the world.

Let's use personal digital assistants as an example (Alexa, Google home). These devices are mostly made by large corporations that generate most of their revenue from cloud based services. When they create some hardware for a digital assistant, they're effectively pushing some of their technology stack from the cloud to the edge. The software created in these edge devices are, in some cases, scaled down versions of their cloud based technologies. They have a top down approach to the problem; pushing cloud based technologies into the edge. Their route to market is pretty simple as they sell directly to consumers with no intermediate OEMs or complex sales channels. 
 
A traditional controls manufacturer is typically more familiar with digital edge technologies than cloud. They're looking to push their technology stack from the edge to the cloud. In some cases, technologies already developed for the edge are being pushed into the cloud. Typically the route to market is complex, selling through OEMs and SIs with possible rebranding and product customization in between. 
 
When controls manufacturers create cloud enabled devices they have to consider their route to market. Complex branding and customizations need to be cheaply added to any cloud solution already deployed. They also need to provide products that still work and are usable even when the Internet connection goes down. When a device is installed in a building there may not even be an Internet connection available. Also, who's using the system varies. Is it the building owner, facility manager, or system integrator? What happens when an employee leaves? How is their access to the building automation system revoked?
 
Then we have the energy crisis, global warming, and new conflicts. Increased cyberattacks are increasing with building automation systems being a primary attack vector.
 
All of these challenging requirements affect the technology and product trends we'll see in 2023. Cloud enabled edge devices will need to be...
  • Easy to use and configure: As simple as setting up your home's digital personal assistants.
  • Resilient: Everything still needs to work and be accessible even if there's no Internet connection.
  • Secure: Not directly exposed on the Internet; accessed using your existing secure cloud based user identity; protected against malicious third parties.
  • Customizable: Different OEMs will want to use their own user identity platforms. Cloud user experiences need to be branded as well as the edge devices themselves.
  • Accessible: Easily access your system from anywhere in the world, and the accessibility will need to be fast.
  • Extensible: New green initiatives mean more access to a building's data. Cloud technologies provide an easy to use secure gateway to access that information.
  • Cheap: Cloud technologies can be expensive if you're not careful.
In conclusion, it's not about moving everything from the edge to the cloud. It's about finding the perfect balance, where edge and cloud technologies are used intelligently to solve problems in an ever-increasingly complex and demanding market.

Gareth Johnson

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Topics from this blog: FIN Edge2Cloud

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