IIC moving to edge after OpenFog merge

The Industrial Internet Consortium, alongside LF Edge, is one of the key industry standards bodies promoting the growth of the industrial internet and edge computing. Founded in 2014 by AT&T, Cisco, General Electric, IBM, and Intel, the organization was already counting approximately 260 members in 2016, affiliates ranging from multinational corporations and government representatives to researchers, universities and industry evangelists and innovators. What does the future hold now that edge computing has emerged as a hot topic for industrial IoT?

Joining forces with the OpenFog Consortium

The answer can be found in changes to the organization. In January 2019, the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) merged with the OpenFog Consortium to continue the global push for fog computing and IoT adoption. The OpenFog Consortium was founded in 2015 by ARM Holdings, Cisco Systems, Dell, Intel, Microsoft and Princeton University.

“This agreement brings together the two most important organizations shaping the Industrial Internet of Things,” said Stan Schneider, CEO of Real-Time Innovations and vice-chair of the IIC steering committee in a prepared statement. “The combined organization offers greater influence to members, more clarity to the market, and a lower-risk path to the future for end users. We will be the center of gravity for the future of Industrial IoT systems across industry verticals.”

Edge, fog, mist: What is edge computing for the IIC?

The two organizations will together keep on devising testbeds and use cases for smart device architectures to speed up data access, as well as define edge and fog computing. A strong advocate of fog computing, the OpenFog Consortium defines it as a horizontal architecture at system-level that allocates and disperses resources and services from Cloud to Things and which can be leveraged by different industries operating with big data structures, due to its low-latency, security, agility, and real-time analytics. Fog computing architectures leverage edge devices and can be successfully used in smart device projects related to factories, robotics, patient monitoring, and autonomous cars. The cloud is overpowered, it can no longer receive, segment, and analyze the data generated by billions of computing devices.

The Industrial Internet Consortium has defined edge as an important pillar in IoT growth and development that boosts computation performance and cuts down bandwidth costs associated with data centers. According to the IIC, the vocabulary around edge and the ‘where’ of edge is quite overabundant in perspectives. While “edge, fog, edge computing, fog computing, mist, cloudlets, thing-to-cloud continuum and fog-to-cloud continuum” are all accurate depending on technology, the organization prefers to stick with “edge computing” to incorporate all the tech perspectives and technologies.

Addressing real problems to drive growth

Industry experts across the globe have been working together under the IIC umbrella for several years to help companies leverage digital technologies and digital transformation. This has resulted in publications from the IIC Technology Working Group such as the June 2015 Industrial Internet reference architecture that outlined some IoT technology standards and key functional areas.

The organization’s Industry Leadership Council continues to work on testing industrial internet of things solutions for smart manufacturing deployments. The IIC is actively developing testbeds to learn about IoT technology deployment opportunities in critical industries such as manufacturing, transportation, and life sciences. Currently, there are about 27 testbeds in various locations around the world, helping members learn about IoT robustness and security framework best practices, as well as understand industry needs for interoperability, portability, security, and privacy.

These are also technical pilots of different technologies that address real problems and will either prove successful and innovative or will turn out to be a complete failure. One example of an edge-related project is the Edge Intelligence testbed, which addresses focused on driving the growth of edge architecture. The high deployment of IoT devices across industry sectors has increased the need for real-time analytics at the edge because the networks connected to smart devices in this architecture are not reliable enough and don’t have sufficient bandwidth to provide data center-like data analytics. Security and interoperability will keep being top challenges, as the next step in edge computing is to master the art of securing device connections on the edge.

Whether the future architecture is edge or fog or some other amalgam, the combined IIC is aiming to be a key influence in driving industry standardization in 2020 and beyond.

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