Articles | March 15, 2024

Azure IoT Edge Computing: A 101 Guide With Microsoft Azure

Look at IoT Edge computing, including what it is, the benefits it can drive, and how to get started immediately by using Microsoft Azure.

IoT Edge

In a digital world, those who capture, analyze, and leverage data to make smart decisions are the ones that keep their customers happy. Internet of Things (IoT) devices are the perfect way to do that, with over 15 billion IoT devices already connected worldwide. 

But IoT continues to become more intelligent, evolving from devices that simply collect data to those that capture, analyze, and action it from any part of your network. In this article, we look at IoT Edge computing, including what it is, the benefits it can drive, and how to get started immediately by using Microsoft Azure.

Let’s get into it!

What is IoT Edge Computing?

The Internet of Things (IoT) isn’t a new concept. We’ve been connecting a physical IoT device to our networks for ages to capture and transfer data. Once that data is captured, it’s transferred to a central computing device for processing and actioning, either by Artificial Intelligence or by humans. 

Where IoT Edge computing makes a leap forward is moving that processing power to the edge of the network, putting it closer to the IoT device that’s capturing the data. While a central system manages the modules deployed to the edge of the network, the clever work happens closer to the Internet of Things devices.

This helps speed up the end-to-end process, de-risk your architecture, reduce latency, and provide a better user experience. This is especially important when processing data at scale, as a distributed set of resources that execute locally on those devices spreads the load and reduces the risk of failure. 

Also read: Cloud computing trends 2023-2025

Edge Devices vs Standard IoT: Connectivity, Analytics & More

We know the high-level differences between a standard IoT device and an IoT edge device, but let’s get into a more detailed capabilities comparison to truly understand the difference. 

  • Connectivity – Standard and Edge IoT devices largely operate in the same way, sitting as part of your wider network, connecting through an IoT gateway. The key difference is that because services for processing run on each IoT Edge device, many of them can also operate offline providing stronger analytics at the edge of your network.
  • Performance – While it’s hard to compare the performance like-for-like, IoT devices collect and send data incredibly efficiently and pass it back through an IoT hub for processing. When you deploy an Edge device, you deploy processing capability with it, meaning it can analyze and execute data-driven business logic at the edge of the network. 
  • Cost – Again, it’s tricky to compare the like-for-like cost of IoT and Edge IoT as they do slightly different things. When using standard IoT devices, the processing power is centralized in your IT network, creating large volumes of central hardware. Edge systems with processing capabilities mean more hardware is placed evenly across the network. While this may be more costly in the short term, if you expand your Edge IoT capability, you can achieve economies of scale and store data in your edge locations rather than in more expensive central data centers.
  • Resilience – Because IoT Edge supports local, offline processing, it offers greater resilience than standard online-only IoT devices. This is especially useful if your mobile IoT devices connectivity can’t be guaranteed, such as with self-driving cars. 

The Benefits of Intelligent Edge Devices and IoT Architecture

If you’re looking for a competitive edge in your IoT strategy, edge computing brings many benefits that can help you set yourself apart. Here are some of the most common benefits those who run IoT edge devices see in their organizations.

  1. IoT Edge Agents sit on the network edge, putting the devices closer to the end user and their requirements. This means you are more likely to meet their needs and keep your teams and customers happy.
  2. Because the processing power is local to the device, IoT Edge runtime is often faster than a standard IoT device, leading to faster decision-making and data outputs. 
  3. IoT Edge architecture reduces network latency as less data has to be sent across the network to be processed.
  4. Closer processing power enables modern technologies like Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence to be deployed more widely than in a traditional cloud computing environment.
  5. IoT Edge devices actually increase your broader IoT security as they store data locally, meaning less IoT data has to be sent across your wider network.
  6. Because Edge data can operate offline, IoT applications have a higher uptime, ensuring IoT data is constantly being captured, analyzed, and actioned.

How Does Azure IoT Edge Work? Leverage Microsoft IoT Hub to Create an Intelligent Edge

Microsoft is one of the leading suppliers of Edge IoT technology, leveraging its Azure IoT hub to help customers generate and use more data than ever before. Here’s how it works: 

  • Microsoft allows you to use IoT Edge devices as containers that run Azure services in any part of the IoT network. That means you can deploy critical third-party services, such as Azure stream analytics, exactly where your organization needs them. 
  • But this doesn’t have to be a blanket approach. Instead, you can deploy different IoT edge modules exactly where you need them, applying the right business logic to each business department. Each device may need different requirements, whether that additional processing power, the ability to hold large amounts of data, or any number of Azure IoT Edge security enhancements – with Azure IoT, no matter the individual requirement, each device can be tailored to meet your needs.
  • But, all of that distributed hardware needs management. All of your Azure IoT edge devices connect to a central IoT hub allowing them to be managed in one place. With Microsoft’s Azure Monitor, you can even be automatically alerted to issues within any application deployed to IoT devices. 
  • For Microsoft’s customers, this means a simplified development environment, reduced IoT costs, and more reliable service in areas with intermittent coverage!

Getting Started With Your IoT Solution: Deploying, Managing, and Securing IoT Edge Devices

If you like what you’ve read about IoT edge devices, you’re probably wondering how to turn your new-found ambitions into a reality. Here are the first three steps we recommend to help you get started. 

  1. Consider your current IT position. Before you start thinking ahead into the future, you need to have a clear picture of where you are today. Are you operating on-premises or utilizing cloud services? Do you have a lot of technical debt? Are you failing to meet the service demands of your business? Whatever your situation, understanding your strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement will help you plan your IoT edge journey.
  2. Identify where IoT edge can help. Whether it’s helping you to capture more data, send data to the cloud more efficiently, build better network resilience, or simply futureproof your computing model, as we’ve seen in this article, there are many benefits IoT edge brings over typical IoT sensors. Once you know your own business and have identified your areas for improvement, look for where edge applications can help improve your IT capabilities. 
  3. Partner with an expert. Companies that see the best results collaborate with experts to help guide them along the journey. As a Microsoft Global Gold Partner, at Inetum, we’re perfectly placed to help you take the first steps via Azure IoT Edge. Through our consulting offering, we’ve helped hundreds of companies across the world build an IoT strategy that better connects them with their data at every point across their network. 

So, if you want to take your data strategy to the next level, contact our Consulting teams today to hear how we can help you maximize the power of IoT Edge. 

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