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The future of AI, IoT and 5G is in the fog

We are at a pivotal moment in technical advancements, where waves of digital innovation are changing how we work, play, travel, communicate, dine, interact and even think. Just ask Alexa or Siri.

In March, our collective imaginations soared when SpaceX launched a Tesla into space. Drones are starting to deliver packages and meals. Robots are transforming factories, supply chains, restaurants — even the environment. In the latest on the #tech4good movement, Urban Rivers has built a remote-controlled, floating, trash-collecting robot to clean up Chicago’s rivers. IoT-enabled smart cities, such as Barcelona, Singapore and Denver, are already saving millions in energy and labor efficiency while improving citizen services and public safety. 5G services will be available in U.S. cities by end of year, ushering in new augmented reality mobility applications that will make Pokémon Go a relic of the past.

This digital innovation has one thing in common: It’s all enabled by fog computing. Fog is the distributed technology that brings compute, networking and control closer to where the data is generated for ultra-fast response that increases user privacy and system protection. It’s an architecture that is gaining traction with the growing awareness that not all information can — nor should — be streamed to the cloud. Processing data closer to where it’s generated is not only beneficial, but absolutely crucial on many fronts: sub-millisecond latency, less network bandwidth and cost, more efficient operations with enhanced system security. While sometimes referred to as edge technology, fog is more comprehensive: It bridges between device, edge and cloud in a superset of functionality that communicates over multiple networks in a north-south, east-west approach between systems.

Recently published use cases by members of the OpenFog Consortium highlight the technologies behind some of the sophisticated fog-based applications for autonomous vehicles, delivery drones, streaming video for onsite sports venues, real-time energy exploration, smart factories, connected healthcare and more.

The bellwether: Investments in fog are up sharply

Growing awareness of these benefits is driving corporate investments in fog infrastructure. Last fall, 451 Research released its landmark report showing a 4x growth in fog computing, up to $18 billion in spend by 2022. More recently, a survey by Futurum Research of 500 North American companies found that 93% will be investing in edge technologies in the next 12 months, and 72% reporting that their edge strategy is either critically or very important to improve business processes and productivity. That’s a whole lot of innovation to come.

Investments are growing on other fronts as well — those who are creating the technologies and applications. Technology leaders and startups alike are developing the advanced technologies that make machine learning and artificial neural network technologies more affordable and easier to use. In 2017, venture capital funding into U.S.-based IoT startups alone reached $1.46 billion, according to Crunchbase, sharply up from the $461.7 million raised in 2013. According to new research from KPMG, artificial intelligence — most notably in the health, finance and automotive sectors — attracted $12billion in investment from venture capitalists globally in 2017, doubling the 2016 numbers.

Last year, Fog World Congress featured a Fog Tank, where five startup finalists competed on stage before an elite group of venture capitalists to be named the biggest game-changer in fog computing and networking. Master of Ceremonies Sam Bhattarai, director at the office of the CTO of Toshiba Corporation, kicked off the event by telling the audience to take note, as it was highly likely that the companies on stage will be the Googles and Amazons of tomorrow. In the engaging 90-minute session, Silicon Valley startup Nebbiolo Technologies took home the grand prize, facing down stiff competition from ActiveAether, Forecubes Inc., Kiana Analytics Inc. and NGD Systems Inc. In October, new global contenders will take the stage to claim bragging rights to this rapidly growing market.

New business, and new business models created by fog

Creating an open, interoperable architecture for fog is complex — and necessary to enable advanced applications such as IoT, 5G and AI. At OpenFog, we are privileged to have a front-row seat into this future vision of innovation through the work of our forward-thinking members.

Research members in China are already looking far ahead at the possibilities enabled by 6G, which some technologists expect will be an autonomous, self-learning and self-planning network. In Detroit, a small team at Wayne University is pioneering connected ambulatory care that keeps critical data accessible in areas of poor connectivity or in poor weather. Princeton University’s Edge Computing Laboratory is leading the work to solve high-density data distribution over remote networks. Several OpenFog members are doing groundbreaking work in blockchain deployments through fog.

And some are creating entirely new business models. SONM is offering IaaS and PaaS based on fog computing as a back end. Computing power suppliers all over the world can contribute their computing power to SONM marketplace. AetherWorks has also created a global computing marketplace in which anyone can rent out, or purchase, processing power for peak demand. Its business model is driven through FogCoin, the blockchain-powered cryptocurrency that incentivizes users to join and use the network.

SCALE to deployment

As defined in the OpenFog Reference Architecture (note: registration required), the attributes of fog can be simplified according to the SCALE model: security, cognition, agility, latency and efficiency:

  • Security — In addition to its distributed approach for trusted transactions, fog offers better GDPR compliance/privacy protection by anonymizing data locally. Should an incident occur, public safety officials can disable it for real-time identification purposes.
  • Cognition — Local fog nodes enable autonomy by processing information at or near the source of the data for real-time decision-making and response.
  • Agility — Clusters of fog nodes can help rapidly moving assets achieve levels of communication and coordination at sub-millisecond speed and at scale.
  • Latency reduction — Fog enables real-time processing and cyber-physical system control for rapid response.
  • Efficiency — Fog nodes enable dynamic pooling of local unused resources from participating end-user devices.

In less than two years, fog has emerged from a relatively unknown concept to one that is powering industry shifts in hot areas such as Industry 4.0 and autonomous transportation.

We invite you to join OpenFog as we help to enable and create the future, and to join in the innovation, research and technologies at Fog World Congress, October 1-3, 2018.

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.

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