Simply put, edge computing allows data generated by IoT (internet of things) devices to be processed near the point of creation rather than sending it across long routes to data centers or clouds. Processing data closer to the edge of a network allows systems to analyze important data in near real-time, reduces costs/traffic, improves application performance, and much more.
Traditional RTUs (Remote Terminal Units) and PLCs (Programmable Logic Controllers) have been used in conjunction with control room software as part of a SCADA (Supervisory and Control and Data Acquisition) system in the oilfield for decades. These devices can be programmed to monitor and control many different applications. Their data can be retrieved, stored, analyzed, and presented to control room operators. Recent advancements have provided an opportunity to adopt the latest technology which allows us to dramatically increase capability and reduce costs at the same time.
An industrial edge computer, or processor, performs a lot of the same tasks as an RTU or PLC but more closely resembles a smart phone in terms of capability, power consumption, connectivity, and features. Compared to a RTU/PLC, an edge processor typically runs 10x as fast, costs less than 25% of the price, uses a fraction of the power, and can run multiple highly analytical apps that can be used to solve almost any challenge right at site. An edge processor generally consists of a microprocessor with operating system and installed apps, has a modem to connect to a public network, and features industrial interfaces to connect to a multitude of local controllers and sensors. Using these features, it can monitor, analyze, and control any oilfield asset, delivering real time data to an on premise or cloud-based monitoring and analysis system.