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Privacy vs Efficiency: Can Edge Computing Help Us Have It all?

Joud Al-Baddawi

February 5th, 2023

After someone finally read the fine print of Facebook or Amazon, many realised how much of their data is stored in clouds and servers even after simple interactions with technology like asking Alexa about highway traffic. That raised many concerns about data safety and our privacy.

A technology that was first introduced in the 1990s may be the solution that grants us more data privacy but also faster IoT technologies and better self-driving cars. Edge Computing is defined as "distributed information technology (IT) architecture in which client data is processed at the periphery of the network, as close to the originating source as possible."

In simpler terms, edge computing allows us to process our data closer to where it was generated (edge) rather than sending it to a cloud (center) to be processed and then sending it back to our devices. The (edge) could be nearby micro data centers, like when you watch Netflix, or the device that generated the data, like a self-driving car. This makes the whole process faster since there is no "travel time" between the device and the cloud. It also keeps all our data in our devices rather than servers controlled by others, meaning it is much harder for your data to be stolen or accessed by unauthorised people.

Edge Computing is vital to self-driving cars because it allows for real-time processing. When self-driving, the car processes all the data it collects from the surrounding environment in real-time to ensure minimal accidents occur.

Edge Computing allows you shorter loading times and better video quality when you watch your favourite Netflix show. Netflix created many regional micro data centers where your data is processed closer to your home.

When it comes to privacy, Edge Computing can help you interact with IoT devices more safely. When most of your data is processed in your device and not in a cloud, it is safer and less likely to be stolen or accessed by unauthorised people, especially since most data you submit to your IoT devices is personal such as where you live. Edge Computing can allow you to use your Alexa offline since there is no need for the internet to transmit data.

However, despite the many advantages of edge computing, there are still concerns about its efficiency, especially when it comes to handling large amounts of data. In cases where a lot of data needs to be processed, it may not be practical to rely on edge computing alone. In these cases, a combination of edge and cloud computing may be the best solution.

As the world becomes increasingly digital, edge computing is becoming more and more relevant, and we'll likely see it being used more and more in the future. With the increasing awareness of data privacy and the need for real-time processing, edge computing could be the solution that helps us have it all.


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