Wednesday, July 26, 2017 / Perth Australia / By Niekie Jooste
In this edition of "The WelderDestiny Compass":
In our very first edition of The WelderDestiny Compass, we took a look at artificial intelligence. (Click here if you want to read that e-zine...) In our third edition of The WelderDestiny Compass we discussed the effect of the Internet of Things (IoT) on the Welder in the future. (Click here to read that edition of the e-zine...)
We got the idea that cloud computing was the main enabler of these trends, but we also need to consider where "edge computing" fits into this bigger picture.
Today we look at edge computing, and how that relates to cloud computing, and ultimately how this all relates to the Welder.
If you would like to add your ideas to this week’s discussion, then please send me an e-mail with your ideas, (Send your e-mails to: email@example.com) or complete the comment form on the page below.
Now let's get stuck into this week’s topics...
Edge computing really just refers to processing power that is applied at the edge of a network, rather than centrally on a network, or server. While computer networks are continuously getting faster, they are still way too slow to transmit the vast amounts of data that is produced by a wide array of sensors and cameras in modern applications, and deliver the output in a timely manner.
As an example, consider the vast amounts of data collected every second by a self-driving car. There is no mobile network that is fast enough to transmit all the sensor and camera data to a central server for analysis, and then return the commands for steering the car. Some analysts estimate that the amount of data will be around 1GB per second. I don't want to be in the car when the network slows down while the car is bearing down on a large truck standing in the middle of the road!
It is obvious that the processing power to make the decisions about steering the car needs to reside in the car itself. Processing the 1GB per second of data, and making the right decisions based on that data, takes a whole lot of processing power. It is for this reason that graphics processing computer chips are hot property at the moment. Companies such as NVIDIA, that use to largely support the computer gaming community, are now at the forefront of edge computing. They are instrumental in applications such as self driving cars and virtual reality and augmented reality.
Edge computing allows high powered and data hungry processes, such as artificial intelligence, to be operated in an autonomous manner. It allows computers and robots to operate without the assistance from servers, which is obviously important whenever they are not within reach of a network.
Cloud computing is where the data aggregation, data mining and information transfer happens. Edge computers gather the data, and perform their functions, but then feed relevant data to the cloud where it can be aggregated. In the cloud, the data becomes valuable as it drives platforms that extract information that can become saleable commodities.
Invariably, the information extracted from the data in the cloud is sold back into the very network that provided it in the first place. Isolated data is often not worth that much, but when it is aggregated with a lot of other data, statistically relevant information can be extracted. This generates a lot of potential wealth.
Distributed blockchain technology also relies on the cloud to function. (Click here to read more about blockchain technology...) As previously discussed, this technology is exploding at the moment, and will become ever more important as we head into the near future.
I published an extract of the e-zine discussing artificial intelligence in welding, on LinkedIn. Somebody commented that in the future, if the network goes down, then the welding will stop. This is not entirely correct. Due to the edge computing power that is available locally, including artificial intelligence, quite extended breaks from the network will be handled with relative ease.
This will however not be the case where live data is needed from one of the information platforms. In that case, you will have to wait for the network! Clearly reliable networks will only get more important in the future.
In the case of the Welder, data acquired through a number of sensors (thermal, video, laser measurements) can be used immediately within the edge computing environment. The data that needs to be downloaded to the cloud, for the purpose of record keeping and data aggregation, can always happen at some later time when there is enough time and connection speed to the network.
In the future, the human Welder will be part of the whole automated scenario. As the machine / human interface improves, including speech recognition, this process will become a lot less daunting that it may now appear. None-the-less, every person should sharpen up their computing skills, if they want to stay relevant in the future job market.
Yours in welding
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