Fog computing may be the next big thing for the Internet of things. The fog computing market, valued at $22.3 million in 2017, will expand at an explosive rate and grow to $203.5 million over the next five years, according to projections by Markets and Markets. IoT interconnectivity, machine to machine communication, real-time computing demand and demand for connected devices are driving the fog market’s growth.
Businesses impacted by these trends are turning to fog computing for greater efficiency, faster decision-making processes and lowered operating costs. Here’s a closer look at what fog computing is, why it will play a key role in the future of IoT technology and how it will help with cybersecurity.
Fog Computing vs. Traditional Cloud Computing
Fog computing is an extension of cloud computing to adjust to the emerging Internet of things. The IoT is connected to a vast array of devices, including mobile phones, wearables, smart TVs, smart homes, smart cars and even smart cities. The amount of devices collecting data — and the amount of data being processed — is growing exponentially.
Public cloud computing provides the computing space to process this volume of data through remote-located servers. But uploading this amount of data to remote servers for analysis and delivering the results back to the original location takes time, which can slow down processes that demand rapid responses in real time. Additionally, when Internet connectivity is unreliable, relying on remote servers becomes problematic.
Fog computing is a solution to these issues, explains Cisco, a pioneering member of the OpenFog Consortium. Rather than relying primarily on remote servers at a central location, fog computing uses distributed computer resources located closer to local devices to handle processes that demand rapid processing, with other, less time-sensitive processes delegated to more remote cloud servers.
This can be visualized as pushing the border of the cloud closer to the “edge” of local devices connected to the Internet of things. Because of this, fog computing is also sometimes called “edge computing.” Thus, fog computing is not really opposed to cloud computing, but it can be viewed as a variety of hybrid cloud computing where some processes are handled by private fog networks closer to network devices and some are handled by the public cloud.
Why Companies are Turning to Fog Computing
There are a few major reasons why companies are turning to fog computing, explains TechTalks software engineer Ben Dickson. One is the emergence of IoT applications, where real-time response can be a matter of life or death. A key example is the healthcare industry: Medical wearables are increasingly being used by healthcare providers to monitor patient conditions, provide remote telemedicine and even to guide on-site staff and robots in procedures as delicate as surgery. Thus, reliable real-time data processing is crucial for these types of applications.
Another IoT application where rapid response is crucial is vehicle communications. Many cars use online information to guide navigational decisions. In the near future, driverless cars will rely entirely on automated input to perform navigation. Thus, a slow response when vehicles are moving at 60 mph can be dangerous or even fatal, so real-time processing speed is required. Fog computing networks are especially suitable for applications that require a response time of less than a second, according to Cisco.
How Fog Computing Helps Cyber Security
Security is another big reason companies are turning to fog computing. Data for applications such as healthcare and point-of-sales transactions is very sensitive and a primary target for cyber criminals and identity thieves. However, fog computing provides a way to keep this type of data under tight guard.
Fog systems are designed from the ground up to protect the security of information exchange between IoT devices and the cloud, providing security suitable for real-time applications, according to the OpenFog Consortium. Fog systems can also be used to keep device data securely in-house and away from vulnerable pubic networks. Data backups can then be safely stored by deploying reliable backup services, like those provided by Mozy, allowing companies to schedule automated backups protected by military-grade encryption.