The Vation Ventures Glossary

Edge Computing: Definition, Explanation, and Use Cases

Edge computing is a distributed computing paradigm that brings computation and data storage closer to the location where it is needed, to improve response times and save bandwidth. The term "edge" in this context means literal geographic distribution. Edge computing is significant as massive amounts of data from IoT devices continue to rise, and relying on cloud computing alone to process it isn't sufficient.

Edge computing can be seen as a response to the exponential growth of IoT devices, which is expected to generate an overwhelming amount of data. By placing some processing power at the edge of the network, the amount of data that needs to be transported to the cloud is reduced. This can improve performance by reducing latency, as data does not need to traverse over a network to a data center or cloud for processing.

Definition of Edge Computing

The term "Edge Computing" refers to the practice of processing data near the edge of your network, where the data is being generated, instead of in a centralized data-processing warehouse. Edge computing pushes applications, data, and computing power (services) away from centralized points to the logical extremes of a network. It enables analytics and knowledge generation to occur at the source of the data.

This approach requires leveraging resources that may not be continuously connected to a network such as laptops, smartphones, tablets, and sensors. Edge computing covers a wide range of technologies including wireless sensor networks, mobile data acquisition, peer-to-peer networks, grid computing, and cloud computing, among others.

Key Characteristics of Edge Computing

Edge computing has several key characteristics that differentiate it from traditional computing paradigms. These include proximity to source of data, autonomy, resourcefulness, and real-time operations. Proximity to source of data means that data is processed close to where it is generated. This reduces latency and improves response times.

Autonomy refers to the ability of edge computing systems to function independently even when network connectivity is not available. Resourcefulness means that edge computing systems can leverage local resources such as storage and processing power. Real-time operations refer to the ability of edge computing systems to process data in real-time or near real-time, which is crucial for many IoT applications.

Components of Edge Computing

Edge computing consists of several components that work together to process data at the edge of the network. These include edge devices, edge nodes, and edge servers. Edge devices are devices that produce data. These can be anything from IoT devices like sensors and actuators, to mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.

Edge nodes are the points in the network where an edge server is present. These nodes serve as the connection point between edge devices and the rest of the network. Edge servers are the computing resources located at the edge nodes. They provide the processing power needed to analyze the data from the edge devices.

Explanation of Edge Computing

Edge computing works by processing data at or near the source of data generation, rather than relying on the cloud at one of a dozen data centers to do all the work. It doesn't mean the cloud will disappear. It means the cloud is coming to you.

So, instead of IoT or mobile devices needing to constantly call home to centralized cloud infrastructure for instructions or analysis, they are given the ability to accomplish these tasks on their own. In other words, the devices are making decisions for themselves, or at least making recommendations for other devices in the local edge environment.

How Edge Computing Works

Edge computing involves a system of technologies that distribute application data and services where they can best optimize outcomes in networks of connected assets. These technologies include remote monitoring, automated maintenance, virtualized computing resources, and decentralized processing.

Edge computing works by enabling data stream acceleration, including real-time data processing without latency. It allows smart applications and devices to respond to data almost instantaneously, as its being created, eliminating lag time, which is critical for technologies such as self-driving cars. Edge computing also allows for greater data compression, resulting in less strain on network resources.

Benefits of Edge Computing

Edge computing offers several benefits over traditional cloud computing. First, it provides improved performance by reducing latency. Since data doesn't have to traverse over a network to the data center or cloud for processing, data processing is faster. This is particularly important for time-sensitive applications.

Second, it offers increased security as data is processed and stored locally, reducing the chances of data breaches. Third, it provides the ability to operate offline or with intermittent network connectivity. This is crucial for remote locations with poor connectivity. Lastly, it offers cost savings as less data needs to be transported over the network, reducing network bandwidth costs.

Use Cases of Edge Computing

Edge computing is being used in a wide range of applications, from improving mobile communications and remote monitoring in healthcare, to advanced robotics in manufacturing and predictive maintenance in the utility sector. The common thread among all these applications is the need for real-time processing and high levels of reliability.

Edge computing is also being used to drive new innovations in IoT. For example, edge computing can be used to process IoT data in real-time, enabling businesses to react to changes in the environment immediately. This is particularly useful in industries such as manufacturing, where machinery needs to be monitored and maintained regularly to prevent failures and downtime.

Edge Computing in Healthcare

In the healthcare sector, edge computing is being used to improve patient care and outcomes. For example, wearable devices can monitor patients' vitals in real-time, and the data can be processed immediately at the edge. This allows healthcare providers to react quickly to any changes in the patient's condition.

Edge computing is also being used in remote patient monitoring. By processing data at the edge, healthcare providers can provide real-time feedback to patients, improving patient engagement and adherence to treatment plans. Furthermore, edge computing can enable telemedicine services, allowing healthcare providers to deliver care remotely, particularly in rural or underserved areas.

Edge Computing in Manufacturing

In the manufacturing sector, edge computing is being used to improve operational efficiency and productivity. For example, sensors on manufacturing equipment can monitor the condition of the equipment in real-time. The data can be processed at the edge, allowing for immediate action to be taken if any issues are detected. This can prevent equipment failures and reduce downtime, resulting in significant cost savings.

Edge computing is also being used in advanced robotics. By processing data at the edge, robots can make decisions in real-time, improving their efficiency and effectiveness. For example, in an assembly line, a robot can detect if a part is defective and remove it immediately, preventing it from moving further down the line and causing more issues.


Edge computing represents a significant shift in the way data is processed in our increasingly connected world. By bringing computation and data storage closer to the source of data generation, edge computing offers numerous benefits, including reduced latency, increased security, and cost savings. As the number of IoT devices continues to grow, the importance of edge computing will only continue to increase.

From healthcare to manufacturing, edge computing is driving innovation and improving outcomes. As technology continues to evolve, we can expect to see even more use cases for edge computing, further highlighting its importance in our connected world.