What is IoT Edge Computing?

Benefits of edge computing in IoT networks

Edge computing in the Internet of Things (IoT) aims to bring computation and data storage closer to edge devices rather than relying solely on centralized cloud servers. This approach is essential to address the challenges posed by the massive scale and low latency requirements of IoT applications (and end-users).

Traditionally, IoT devices send all their raw data to the cloud for processing and analysis. However, this centralized architecture is not always the most efficient or practical solution. Edge computing aims to overcome these limitations by enabling data processing and analysis to occur closer to the source, at the edge of the network, near the devices themselves.

There are several key reasons why edge computing is crucial in IoT:

  1. Reduced Latency: Low latency is critical in certain applications, such as real-time monitoring or autonomous vehicles. By processing data at the edge, closer to the devices, response times can be significantly reduced. This is especially important for time-sensitive operations that require instant feedback or decision-making.

  2. Bandwidth Optimization: IoT devices often generate large volumes of data. Transmitting all this data to the cloud can strain network bandwidth and incur high costs. With edge computing, data processing is performed locally, and only relevant or summarized information is sent to the cloud. This optimization reduces the overall data traffic, conserves bandwidth, and minimizes the associated costs.

  3. Improved Reliability: Maintaining a stable and consistent cloud connection in remote or disconnected environments is challenging. Edge computing allows devices to operate autonomously, even when network connectivity is limited or unreliable. By processing data locally, edge devices can continue functioning and making critical decisions, even without uninterrupted connectivity.

  4. Real-time Decision-making: Certain IoT applications require real-time decision-making capabilities. Time-sensitive decisions can be made more quickly and efficiently by processing data near the devices' edge. This is crucial for applications such as industrial automation, where immediate action is needed to prevent accidents or optimize operational efficiency.

  5. Offline Operations: IoT devices often operate in environments with limited or intermittent network connectivity. Edge computing allows devices to continue operating even offline or with limited connectivity. By processing data locally at the edge, devices can still perform critical tasks and make decisions without relying on a constant connection to the cloud. This capability is especially valuable in remote or resource-constrained environments where reliable network connectivity is unavailable.

  6. Scalability: Edge computing offers scalability advantages for IoT networks. The overall system can handle more edge computing devices and data streams by distributing processing power and capabilities across edge devices. This distributed architecture allows more efficient resource utilization and reduces the strain on centralized data centers. As the number of IoT devices grows, edge computing provides a scalable solution that can accommodate the increasing demand for processing power and data management.

  7. Cost Efficiency: Edge computing can offer cost savings for IoT deployments. Edge computing reduces network costs by minimizing the amount of data transmitted to the cloud and optimizing bandwidth usage. Additionally, edge servers can often perform data processing tasks using lower-cost hardware than cloud servers, resulting in cost savings for infrastructure and maintenance. These cost efficiencies make edge computing an attractive option for IoT applications with large-scale deployments or tight budget constraints.

Edge computing & data security

Edge computing helps address several security concerns associated with IoT devices. Here's how edge computing improves data security in IoT networks:

  • Reduced data exposure: Edge computing enables data to be processed and analyzed locally, reducing the need to transmit sensitive information to centralized cloud servers. Edge computing significantly reduces the attack surface and potential data exposure to malicious actors by minimizing data movement.

  • Lower latency and real-time analysis: With edge computing, data can be processed and analyzed in real time without sending it to a remote server. This reduces latency and enables immediate response to security threats. Quick actions can be taken to prevent or mitigate potential attacks, improving overall data security.

  • Enhanced privacy: By keeping sensitive data at the edge rather than transmitting it to the cloud, edge computing helps protect user privacy. This is particularly important in scenarios involving personal or confidential data, such as healthcare or financial applications. Edge computing ensures that data remains within the boundaries of the local network, reducing the risk of unauthorized access.

  • Local threat detection and prevention: Edge computing enables the deployment of security measures directly at edge devices. This allows for implementing local threat detection and prevention mechanisms, such as intrusion detection systems (IDS) or firewalls. Detecting and mitigating threats at the edge can stop potential attacks before they reach the core network or cloud servers, adding an additional layer of security to the overall IoT network.

  • Reduced network congestion: By processing data locally at the edge, edge computing reduces the amount of data that needs to be transmitted over the network. This helps to alleviate network congestion and reduces the risk of data interception or tampering during transmission.

  • Improved reliability: Edge computing systems are designed to operate decentralized, with individual edge devices capable of functioning independently. This helps to improve the reliability and resilience of IoT networks, as a single point of failure or attack in the cloud or central server does not bring down the entire system. Even if one edge device is compromised, the impact can be localized, limiting the potential damage to the network.

What types of data processing can be performed with edge computing in IoT?

Edge computing in IoT offers several types of data processing that can be performed to enhance the capabilities and efficiency of IoT systems. Some of the key types of data processing are:

Data filtering and aggregation: Edge computing allows data to be filtered and aggregated at the edge devices before transmitting it to the cloud or a central server. This helps reduce network congestion and bandwidth requirements, as only the necessary data is sent further for processing.

Data analytics and machine learning: Edge computing empowers IoT devices to perform local analytics and machine learning tasks. IoT systems can generate realtime insights and predictions without relying on cloud connectivity by running data analytics algorithms and machine learning models at the edge. This is particularly useful in scenarios where low latency and quick response times are critical.

Anomaly detection and security: IoT devices can perform real-time anomaly detection and security monitoring at the edge with edge computing. Analyzing data locally allows potential security threats or abnormal behavior to be identified and acted upon immediately without continuous data transmission to a cloud-based security system.

Predictive maintenance: Edge computing enables predictive maintenance in IoT systems by analyzing sensor data locally and identifying patterns or trends that indicate potential failures or maintenance requirements. This allows for proactive maintenance and reduces downtime, as actions can be taken based on realtime analysis at the edge devices.

Data caching and storage: Edge computing allows for caching and storing frequently accessed data at the edge devices. This reduces the need for constant access to the cloud or central server, improving response times and overall system performance.

Real-time decision-making: IoT devices can make real-time decisions based on local data processing and analysis. This eliminates the need for constant communication with a central server or cloud, enabling faster response times and reducing dependence on network connectivity.

Data privacy and compliance: There’s an added layer of data privacy and compliance by keeping sensitive data localized and processed at the edge devices. This reduces the risk of data breaches and ensures compliance with regulations that govern the processing and storage of personal or sensitive information.

Challenges with using edge computing in IoT applications

Edge computing offers numerous benefits for IoT applications, such as reduced latency, improved security, and enhanced reliability. However, it also brings along several challenges that need to be addressed. Let's delve into some key challenges of edge computing in IoT applications.

  1. Limited resources: Edge devices typically have limited computational power, storage resources, and energy resources. This poses challenges in running resource-intensive applications or handling large amounts of data locally. Developers must optimize their applications to ensure efficient resource utilization and minimize the impact on edge devices.

  2. Network connectivity: Edge computing relies on a network infrastructure to enable communication between edge devices and the central cloud or data center. Edge devices may sometimes experience intermittent or unreliable network connectivity, disrupting data transmission and application functionality. Developers should design applications to handle network disruptions and ensure data integrity and reliability.

  3. Security and privacy: With edge computing, data processing and storage occur at the edge devices, introducing potential security and privacy risks. Edge devices may be more vulnerable to physical tampering or unauthorized access, making them attractive targets for attackers. Developers must implement robust security measures, such as encryption, authentication, and access control, to protect sensitive data and ensure the integrity of edge devices.

  4. Scalability and management: Managing a large-scale deployment of edge devices can be challenging. Adding new devices, updating software, and monitoring their performance requires efficient management systems. Developers must design scalable architectures and implement effective management solutions to ensure smooth operation and maintenance of edge devices.

  5. Data management and analytics: Edge computing generates vast data that must be processed and analyzed in real time. However, edge devices may not have the computational power or storage capacity to handle complex data analytics tasks. Developers must find ways to optimize data management and analytics processes, such as implementing data compression techniques or offloading data to the cloud for analysis.

  6. Interoperability and standardization: The IoT ecosystem comprises many devices, platforms, and protocols. Ensuring interoperability and standardization across edge devices and applications can be challenging. Developers must adopt open standards and protocols to facilitate seamless communication and integration between edge devices and other components of the IoT infrastructure.

  7. Data governance and compliance: Edge computing involves processing and storing sensitive data, subject to various regulations and compliance requirements, such as data protection laws or industry-specific regulations. Developers must ensure that their applications comply with relevant data governance and compliance regulations, such as implementing data anonymization or encryption techniques.

  8. Edge device failure and maintenance: Edge devices are prone to hardware failures or malfunctions due to their exposure to harsh environments or limited maintenance capabilities. Developers must consider failure scenarios and design applications that can handle device failures gracefully, such as implementing redundant systems or backup mechanisms.

How can edge computing help reduce the costs associated with IoT deployments?

Edge computing can help reduce the costs associated with IoT deployments in several ways:

  1. Reduced data transmission costs: With edge computing, data processing, and analysis occur closer to the source of data generation, reducing the need to transmit large amounts of data to a centralized cloud server. This can significantly minimize bandwidth and data transmission costs, especially when IoT devices generate substantial data.

  2. Lower cloud infrastructure costs: Organizations can avoid expensive cloud service charges by offloading computing tasks to edge devices, especially for data-intensive IoT deployments.

  3. Improved scalability: Edge devices can handle a significant portion of the workload instead of relying solely on centralized cloud resources. This scalability eliminates the need for continuously increasing cloud infrastructure resources as IoT devices and data volume grows.

  4. Enhanced operational efficiency: By reducing the time it takes for data to travel from IoT devices to the cloud and back, organizations can achieve more efficient operations, potentially leading to cost savings associated with increased productivity and reduced downtime.

  5. Enhanced data privacy and security: By keeping data closer to the source, organizations can implement stronger security measures and reduce the chances of unauthorized access or data leakage. This can help mitigate the costs associated with data breaches, such as legal fines, reputational damage, and loss of customer trust.

  6. Reduced network connectivity costs: In traditional IoT deployments, devices rely heavily on continuous network connectivity to transmit data to and from the cloud. This can result in substantial network connectivity costs, especially in remote or rural areas where connectivity may be limited or expensive. With edge computing, devices can perform local data processing and analysis, reducing the reliance on constant network connectivity and potentially lowering connectivity costs.

  7. Minimized latency: Latency, or the delay in data transmission, can be a significant challenge in IoT deployments, especially for time-sensitive applications like industrial automation or autonomous vehicles. Edge computing brings data processing and analysis closer to the source, reducing the time it takes for data to travel to the cloud and back. This minimizes latency and enables real-time or near-real-time decision-making, improving operational efficiency and potentially reducing costs associated with delays or missed opportunities.

How does edge computing enable real-time insights in IoT deployments?

Traditionally, data collection from devices and sensors in IoT deployments is sent to a centralized cloud server for processing and analysis. This approach can introduce delays due to network latency, bandwidth limitations, and the need to transfer large amounts of data.

Edge computing solves these challenges by performing data processing and analysis locally, at the network's edge, near the source of data generation. This means insights can be generated in real time without sending data to the cloud for processing.

By leveraging edge computing, IoT devices can process and analyze data immediately, enabling real-time insights and actions. For example, in industrial IoT or a smart manufacturing scenario, edge devices can analyze sensor data in real time to detect anomalies or faults in production lines, triggering immediate actions such as shutting down a machine to prevent further damage.

Edge computing enables using machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithms directly on edge devices. This allows for intelligent decision-making at the edge without relying on cloud-based AI models. For instance, edge devices can analyze traffic patterns and adjust real-time signal timings in a smart city deployment to optimize traffic flow, reducing congestion and improving overall efficiency.

Edge computing also helps address data privacy and security concerns. By processing data locally, sensitive information can stay within the local network and not be sent to the cloud, reducing the risk of data breaches and unauthorized access. This is especially important in industries such as healthcare, where personal and sensitive patient data needs to be protected.

Lastly, edge computing allows for quicker response times and improved user experiences. By analyzing data locally, devices can respond to events and triggers in real time, providing faster and more seamless interactions. This is particularly relevant in applications such as autonomous vehicles or smart homes, where split-second decisions can significantly affect performance and user satisfaction.

Edge computing vs. cloud computing

Edge computing and cloud computing are two distinct approaches to handling data in the context of IoT. While both have their merits, they differ in several key aspects.


Edge computing refers to processing and analyzing data near its source, i.e., at the network's edge, typically on IoT devices or in close proximity. In contrast, cloud computing involves processing and analyzing data on remote servers in data centers owned by companies like AWS or Microsoft (Azure), often located far from the IoT devices generating the data.

Data Processing Location:

Edge computing prioritizes local data processing, which can result in faster response times, reduced latency, and improved real-time decision-making capabilities. Alternatively, cloud computing relies on centralized data processing, transmitted to remote servers for analysis and storage. This allows for extensive computational power, scalability, and ability to handle large datasets.

Bandwidth and Connectivity:

Edge computing is advantageous when bandwidth is limited or unreliable, as it reduces the need to transmit large amounts of data to the cloud. By processing data locally, edge computing can minimize the impact of network latency and reduce the reliance on stable internet connections. In contrast, cloud computing requires strong and consistent connectivity to transmit data to and from cloud servers.

Data Security and Privacy:

Edge computing can provide enhanced data security and privacy as sensitive or confidential data can be processed locally without being transmitted to external servers. This reduces the risk of data breaches or unauthorized access during transmission. In cloud computing, data is transmitted to remote servers, potentially introducing security vulnerabilities. However, cloud service providers often have robust security measures to protect data.


Edge computing can be more cost-effective in certain scenarios, especially when dealing with large amounts of data or when real-time processing is required. By processing data locally, edge computing reduces the need for expensive cloud infrastructure and data transmission costs. Cloud computing may require significant upfront investment in infrastructure and ongoing operational costs.


Cloud computing offers greater scalability compared to edge computing. With cloud computing, resources can be easily scaled up or down as needed, allowing for efficient handling of fluctuating workloads. Edge computing may have limitations regarding IoT devices' processing power and storage capacity.

Use Cases:

Edge computing is particularly beneficial in use cases where low latency and real-time processing are critical, such as IoT device control, autonomous vehicles, industrial automation, smart cities, or remote monitoring applications. Cloud computing is often preferred for use cases that involve big data analysis, machine learning, or applications that require extensive computational power.

Edge computing vs. fog computing

Fog computing and edge computing are two terms often used in the context of distributed computing architectures in the realm of IoT. While they share some similarities, there are significant differences between these two concepts. Let's explore fog computing and edge computing in more detail:

  • Edge Computing: Edge computing focuses on bringing data storage and processing capabilities closer to the data source, typically at the edge of the network, such as IoT devices. By performing computing tasks at the edge, edge computing minimizes latency, reduces bandwidth usage, and enables quick decision-making in real-time applications. Edge computing is highly decentralized, with computing resources at the edge devices.

  • Fog Computing: Fog computing, on the other hand, extends the concept of edge computing by introducing intermediate computing nodes known as fog nodes or fog servers. These nodes are placed near edge devices or at strategic points within the network infrastructure. Fog computing enables more complex computations and data processing at the network edge, offering additional storage, computing power, and analytical capabilities. It provides a hierarchical architecture with fog nodes interconnecting edge devices and cloud services.

The key differences between fog computing and edge computing can be summarized as follows:

  1. Architecture: Edge computing follows a decentralized architecture where computing resources are located directly on the edge devices. In contrast, fog computing introduces intermediate fog nodes between the edge devices and the cloud, creating a hierarchical architecture.

  2. Computational Power: Edge computing focuses on lightweight processing tasks and quick decision-making directly at the edge devices. Fog computing provides more computational power through fog nodes, allowing for more complex computations and data processing.

  3. Scalability: Edge computing can be highly scalable as it utilizes the computing resources available on each edge device. Fog computing offers scalability by deploying additional fog nodes to handle the increasing computational demands at the network edge.

  4. Latency and Bandwidth: Edge computing minimizes latency and reduces bandwidth usage by processing data locally, avoiding sending all data to the cloud. Fog computing also reduces latency, but to a lesser extent than edge computing, as some data may still need to be routed through fog nodes before reaching the cloud.

Overall, fog computing and edge computing provide computational capabilities at the network edge, allowing for real-time data processing and decision-making. Edge computing focuses more on lightweight tasks, while fog computing offers a more hierarchical and scalable approach with additional computing power through fog nodes.

PubNub and IoT edge computing

Edge computing has gained significant attention in the age of IoT devices, and PubNub, a leading provider of real-time communication solutions, plays a crucial role in IoT edge computing. PubNub offers a robust platform that enables developers to build and deploy realtime applications, including IoT device control apps, at the network edge. By leveraging PubNub's infrastructure, APIs, and SDKs, developers can establish secure and low-latency communication between IoT devices and facilitate real-time data exchange and analytics.

Here are some key points to understand the relationship between PubNub and IoT edge computing:

  1. Realtime Communication: PubNub's platform enables seamless realtime communication between IoT devices at the network's edge. This ensures that data is transmitted and received in a timely manner, enabling quick decision-making and response in IoT applications.

  2. Data Stream Management: PubNub provides powerful data stream management capabilities, allowing developers to handle large volumes of data generated by IoT devices. With features like message filtering, buffering, and secure data-in-motion, PubNub ensures efficient data handling and delivery.

  3. Edge Analytics: PubNub supports edge analytics, allowing developers to perform data processing and analytics directly on IoT devices or at the network's edge. This capability eliminates the need to send all IoT data to the cloud, reducing latency and enabling real-time insights and actions.

  4. Security and Access Control: PubNub prioritizes security in IoT edge computing by offering end-to-end encryption, access control mechanisms, and secure authentication. This ensures that data transmitted between IoT devices and applications remains secure and protected from unauthorized access.

  5. Scalability and Reliability: PubNub's global infrastructure ensures high scalability and reliability for IoT edge computing applications. With data centers worldwide, PubNub can handle millions of concurrent connections and guarantee reliable data delivery even in challenging network conditions.

With real-time communication, data stream management, edge analytics, security, and scalability features, PubNub empowers developers to build efficient and responsive IoT applications operating at the network edge.

We enable developers to build real-time interactivity for IoT, web, and mobile devices. The platform runs on our real-time edge messaging network, providing customers with the industry's largest and most scalable global infrastructure for interactive applications. With over 15 points of presence worldwide supporting 800 million monthly active users and 99.999% reliability, you’ll never have to worry about outages, concurrency limits, or any latency issues caused by traffic spikes. It’s perfect for any application that requires real-time data.

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