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Why Is the Edge Important for the Energy Industry?

DZone's Guide to

Why Is the Edge Important for the Energy Industry?

Given how remote some energy sources are, edge computing is becoming an essential component of efficiency and IIoT security.

· IoT Zone ·
Free Resource

With its abundance of remote assets, complex interconnectivity across SCADA devices, and focus on safe and efficient processes, today's energy industry is well-positioned to take advantage of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

But despite the potential benefits, concerns with IIoT solutions' implementation, cost, and reliability still remain.

In the traditional SCADA data collection architecture, all data sources in the field are polled from a centralized host. This requires all raw data to be requested and provided across the network so that it can be stored, monitored, and analyzed back in the enterprise (SCADA, Historian, analytics, and so forth).

But industry leaders see pushing IIoT data collection—and some analytics—to “the edge” as a potential solution to alleviate network bandwidth limitations and security concerns. For the purposes of this paper, the “edge” is defined as the network entry points or data sources that are in the field on the opposite end of the network from the centralized host. In networking terms, an edge device provides an entry point into enterprise or service provider core networks. Examples include routers, routing switches, integrated access devices, multiplexers, and a variety of local area network (LAN) and wide area network (WAN) access devices. Devices and sensors built for the IIoT with access to the network are also considered edge devices.

Across the industry, price and form factors of processors keep decreasing, thus allowing unnecessary computing and data storage to be moved away from the centralized server where enterprise-level applications reside. This enables companies to distribute their computing to the edge of the network through low-cost gateways and industrial PCs that can host localized and task-specific actions in near real-time and transmit much less required data back to the enterprise. And this data can be transmitted with more modern protocols—such as MQTT, OPC UA, AMQP, and CoAP—designed for efficiency and security. Locating the edge gateway in the field and on-site and connecting it directly to the data sources helps alleviate the security concerns of communicating directly with the data sources in the field over a wide area network with an unsecured protocol.

When considering local data collection and analysis at an offshore rig, a well site in west Texas or North Dakota, or a wind farm on a mountain range in Colorado, it doesn’t matter if the analysis is performed in actual devices like PLCs or PACs or in edge gateways. The main concern is ensuring that the raw, unsecure data is not sent across large geographic distances through a potentially public network to a centralized site for analysis and action. 

Topics:
iot ,industrial internet ,edge computing ,iot security

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