Cloud computing has changed the landscape of the computing technology. In 1988, a little known, Menlo Park based company called Google used its cloud strategy to beat Microsoft. In April this year, its parent company, Alphabet, has surpassed the $800 billion mark in market value compare with Microsoft’s $521 billion. An emerging technology, Fog Computing, promises to cause further disruption.

by John Koon, Editor-In-Chief

What is Fog Computing and how it relates to the growing IoT phenomenon?

By now we are all familiar with Internet-of-Things (IoT). The forecast of the number of IoT connection will reach billions in the next few years. Smart sensors and devices will be connected to the servers to provide insights on operations. This will increase productivity of every aspect of our lives. But it is easier said than done. If something goes wrong, who is to blame? Who is really in charge here? It seems to make sense to have a universal standard to provide guidance and have a certification program in place to guarantee everything will work accordingly. This is exactly what OpenFog Consortium is set out to do. In February of 2017, the non-profit organization has published its first “OpenFog Reference Architecture for Fog Computing” and has provided a clear definition of what Fog computing is. The documentation is downloadable for free from the organization’s website. www.openfogconosrtium.org.

Definition:

Fog Computing is a horizontal, system-level architecture that distributes computing, storage, control and networking functions closer to the users along a cloud-to-thing continuum. Fog computing is an extension of the traditional cloud-based computing model where implementations of the architecture can reside in multiple layers of a network’s topology. However, all the benefits of cloud should be preserved with these extensions to fog, including containerization, virtualization, orchestration, manageability, and efficiency. Figure 1.

The basic idea is to have a set of universal specification/ standards to guide the development of computing relating to connectivity and communication. Behind the organization are a group of technology companies and research academies including ARM, Cisco, Dell, Intel, Microsoft and Princeton University.

According to Helder Antunes, chairman of OpenFog and senior director of corporate strategic innovation group of Cisco, Fog Computing is gaining momentum worldwide. Photo 1. Currently it has 57 members reside in 15 countries. Japan, China and the European regions are very committed. The Chinese government has made investment in the development of Fog Computing. The one-stop shop approach of providing continuity of cloud to edge to devices has attracted the attention of IoT product and service manufacturers. Dr. Mung Chiang, a founding board member and an Authur LeGrand Doty professor of electrical engineering of Princeton University has extensive experience in researching fog and cloud, is taking the lead in educating the industry and academies of the technologies. In the future, Chiang wishes to see all segments in the industry and more academia to participate in the development of OpenFog. Photo 2. When OpenFog first, Princeton was the only academic founding member. Microsoft is a founding member of the OpenFog Consortium. According to Jerry Lee, Director of Product Marketing, Data Platform and IoT of Microsoft, “Azure IoT Edge is the evolution of the Azure IoT Gateway SDK, which you can get started today on Azure IoT GitHub page. Azure IoT Edge is the new name for our open-source and cross-platform support for building custom logic at the edge, and the newly announced features will be available later this year.” Photo 3.

The Big Picture

IoT touches every aspect of our lives; so will Fog Computing. The major areas benefited by Fog Computing include manufacturing, healthcare, agriculture, transportation, automotive, smart cities and energy (oil/gas and other smart grids). The common theme under Fog Computing is connectivity and secure communication. Smart manufacturing, Industry 4.0, a European standard promoting the future of manufacturing is an example. This new smart manufacturing called Industry 4.0 promises massive opportunities and it has captured the attention of the industrial world and the developing countries. According to a 2015 European Union paper, Industry 4.0 was intended to provide rapid transformation to manufacturing to reverse the decline in industrialization to a targeted 20% growth. This is significant. To accomplish this, it requires Fog Computing. Many Fortune 500 companies are standing behind Fog Computing. Cisco, a supporter of Fog, has recently introduced an IoT software platform, Cisco Jasper Control Center, at the IoT World Forum focuses on data delivery of IoT, Connected Car and Mobile Enterprise. In the case of connected cars, the solution would enable auto makers to collect performance data from automobiles without having the owner seeing an auto mechanic. When services need to be done, a notice can automatically be sent to the owner and the service department. Additionally, new software updates can be downloaded remotely without any disruption. “These new platform solutions provide better Quality of Service and help users gain productivity,” according to Macario Namie, head of IoT strategy, Cisco Jasper. Separately, Excelfore (Molex is a major investor), a non-OpenFog member, has also announced a new initiative with multiple auto makers called eSync Alliance to provide similar solutions.

The 5G Factor

5G is the foundation of Fog Computing. It provides speed 100 times faster than what 4G LTE can offer. Its super speed allows future connected and driverless cars to access data fast and in real-time to make driving decisions. All major carriers are moving ahead with 5G. Verizon with the acquisition of Straight Path is taking the lead. Additionally, Verizon is testing 5G in 11 cities today by offering 5G to pilot customers in the metropolitan cities including Ann Arbor, Atlanta, Bernardsville (NJ), Brockton (MA), Dallas, Denver, Houston, Miami, Sacramento, Seattle and Washington, D.C. to prove that the gigabit broadband will indeed deliver its expected performance. This is done with Verizon’s 5G Technology Forum (5GTF) partners. Potentially this will create new opportunities to the whole ecosystem. Additionally, early this year, Verizon and Ericsson jointly announced the pre-commercial pilot run with the goal to fine tune the end-to-end 5G network using existing Verizon infrastructure and add new wireless technologies to it. Arun Bansal, Head of Business Unit Network Products at Ericsson, says: “Ericsson 5G Radios have been providing multi-gigabit speeds into subscriber locations by using advanced radio techniques. For example, beamforming can be used to find the best path for the 28GHz radio signal to reach the user.”

The new 5G technologies with higher bandwidth and lower latency in the core and radio network allow operators to provide new services to their customers and create new opportunities. The Ericsson Mobility Report cited that there would be 550 million 5G subscriptions globally in 2022 with 25% in N. America, the largest share.

The biggest challenge ahead

There will be challenges ahead as more and more smart sensors and devices connected together. The biggest is cyber threats worldwide. Attacks are occurring daily with some logging one billion attack attempts a day. This is not to be under estimated. Take a look at the recent WannaCry attacks in May this year. It happened before the weekend and yet many were unaware of the attack until Monday when they returned to work. This reached over 150 countries and 200,000 systems. Many organizations like the national railway in Germany, the largest phone company in Spain and Fed EX were affected. This should serve as a grave warning to all.

The industrial Internet Contortion with founding members including IBM, Bosch, GE, Schneider Electric, SAP and the like are pushing for better cybersecurity. It is taking the initiative in promoting better Industrial Internet including better security by providing the Industrial Security Framework (IISF), an in-depth cross-industry-focused security framework. This was a comprehensive paper developed by international security experts from the Industrial Internet Consortium in September of 2016. Its three objectives are Drive industry consensus, promote IIoT security best practices and accelerate the adoption of those practices. Sven Schrecker, Chair of the Industrial Internet (IIC) Security Working Group, has led the effort to counter cyber threats. By working with multiple consortia worldwide, Schrecker hopes to lead the industry to develop better software and product policy to increase security. As chair of the working group, he also oversees the five subgroups with tasks including Security Liaisons, Security Editors, Security Applicability, Testbed Security and Trustworthiness. Photo 4.

Example of a Fog Computing Food Chain

There are two major developments occurring in parallel. One is the high-bandwidth low-latency 5G delivering gigabit speed. The other is low-speed, low-power LTE called the low-power wide area network (LPWAN). While the ecosystem involves network gear manufacturers, software developers, device and silicon makers, ultimately everything builds on silicon. The largest silicon maker, Intel, has fought for years to gain traction in the wireless space. After trying to build its own teams and acquiring wireless firms, Intel has not been able to show success. With projected IoT connection in the billions, the opportunity will come from the IoT and LPWAN device market. The company to watch is Qualcomm who pioneered the 3G and 4G/LTE development.

Qualcomm has been building wireless LTE modem chips in high volume, thanks to Apple’s successful iPhone business. The future of computing will be Fog and 5G development. Qualcomm with its experience in cell phone modem and LPWAN, is positioning itself as the leader in both 5G and LPWAN. Additionally, it is also trying to carve out a piece of the embedded market segment which has long been dominated by Intel, with its Snapdragon product lines.

The Company is currently shipping over 300 million chips in the IoT market and over 30 OEM designs are using its MDM9206 multimode modem chip. Qualcomm’s strategy is to continue to build products for the LPWAN (Cat M1 and NB1) market. Recently, Qualcomm has added to the Snapdragon 5G modem family the 5G New Radio (NR) multi-mode chipset solutions compliant with the 3GPP-based 5G NR global system. As a partner of Verizon, Qualcomm also has its own ecosystem members including IPS Group, Linknyc, Gemalto, Sierra Wireless, ATT, Telit, Simcom, Honeywell and more. These ecosystem members would continue to build devices based on the Qualcomm silicon. With a healthy food chain (carrier, silicon, software and devices) in place, Fog, 5G and IoT will continue to gain momentum.