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Vancouver, July 2017
Today, at the dawn of the Internet of Things, devices discover, connect and communicate with other devices. Domestic appliances discover one another, connect and communicate daily. Fridges talk to smartphones and order groceries when needed. Driverless cars will soon communicate to avoid collisions and report traffic; and this is only the beginning.
Devices will keep discovering, connecting and communicating. Soon, they will smartly collaborate amongst themselves and with the central cloud to pool resources and in the process, will change how we live and work.
Yet, connecting and empowering devices is contributing to the skyrocketing growth of Internet traffic hitting data centres and thus posing a challenge to central cloud computing. What happens to the central cloud when billions of devices are connected through the Internet of Things? Too many devices will generate too much data for central cloud to operate efficiently.Thankfully, we can take advantage of the ever-increasing computing capabilities of edge devices and offload as much of the central cloud functions as possible to the edge. Edge cloud to central cloud is like WiFi to wireless. Just as WiFi carries most of the global wireless traffic today, edge devices will soon manage most of cloud computing. As Andreessen Horowitz general partner, Peter Levine, puts it: “A large portion of computation that gets done in the cloud today will return to the edge”.
Central cloud is in trouble; welcome the distributed edge cloud
Centralized cloud computing will gradually evolve to distributed edge computing. Edge nodes (all our computing devices) will not be fully dependent on central cloud since most of the time they can process data independently and communicate directly, sharing resources and collaborating. The opportunity is immense as there are billions of potential edge servers today and there will be tens of billions more tomorrow.
In a nutshell, edge computing means that any device can become a mini cloud server. Therefore, data is processed at the periphery of the network, as close to the originating source as possible, pushing the frontier of computing applications, data, and services away from centralized nodes. This approach is faster, more efficient, and scalable: data can be immediately analysed and put into action overcoming the current shortage of bandwidth and speed on the network to cope with such a vast array of connected devices.
How will edge computing redefine our lives?
In the last decade, cloud computing has been a great source of disruption in various industry sectors. The natural evolution of the cloud is to extend computing to the edge to cope with the explosive growth in the number. Edge cloud computing is essential to meet stringent requirements on latency and at the same time reduce power consumption and infrastructure costs.
Edge computing is ready for deployment now in almost all industries. For example:
- Edge cloud will impact greatly our daily lives in our homes. Edge computing can turn set-top boxes (STBs), game consoles, smart TVs, routers, PCs, or even mobile devices into cloud servers. The benefits are enormous: more control on managing personal data by the end users, better cross device and cross-screen media sharing than Airplay or Chromecast, developers ability to deploy and launch services such as smart home quickly and reliably, and the potential to cluster edge devices to share resources and create a virtual cloud that is orders of magnitude larger than the likes of Amazon Web Services (AWS).
- Self-driving cars are another example where edge computing is indispensable. These cars generate about a GByte of data every second. It is not feasible to send all this data back to the central cloud. Moreover, self-driving cars need to make decisions quickly and hence latency is an issue. Edge computing transforms the cars to data centers on wheels where most of the processing is performed locally. Cars can communicate peer-to-peer; reducing bandwidth consumption and latency. Furthermore, mobile devices inside a car can form edge clusters and communicate directly. Drivers and passengers can simultaneously connect their devices to the cars’ infotainment and diagnostic units.
- Another example are fitness centres which can take advantage of edge computing to enhance their members’ experience. By turning the fitness equipment into edge devices, they can connect the equipment with the users’ mobile devices and wearables to monitor the users’ fitness progress and engage with them at the right time. Instructors can observe members’ progress real-time and improve their training; for example, offering more personalized exercise, nutrition and dietary programs based on the collected data.
There are many more potential use cases (Look here): connecting electronic gadgets and appliances directly, enabling new features in social media applications, connecting drones, turning devices such as mobile phones to sensor hubs used in agriculture and mining to collect and process data, etc. Edge cloud computing will soon disrupt every business across all industries, redefining our digital lives.
mimik: Cutting-edge distributed cloud platform technology
In a world where billions of devices are generating data every second, mimik’s platform gives developers the opportunity to turn any computing device into an edge cloud server and as result offer many new experiences and applications for both consumer and enterprise markets. Our disruptive technology solves seamlessly many challenges of turning computing devices into clusters of edge servers regardless of type, operating system and location. Thus, it enables edge computing and unleashes the collective power of edge devices.
By integrating the mimik SDK, any device or app becomes an edge cloud server solving many of the current challenges that central cloud computing cannot address. For example:
- mimik’s solution allows cluster management and node bootstrapping to deal with the need to support a huge number of devices. This will reduce the signalling and bearer bandwidth to an acceptable level.
- Smart routing of traffic and distributed local communications reduces the burden of explosive amounts of data generated at the edge.
- Peer-to-peer connectivity and micro service discovery optimises inter-node access time and communication to address the stringent latency requirements in the future.
- Microservice runtime environment allows developers to dynamically load, start and stop microservices on edge nodes
mimik arms developers with the tools required to unleash the power of edge devices and help democratize the internet and provide us Digital Freedom.
Siavash Alamouti, President & CEO at mimik (*)
Internet has revolutionized every aspect of our lives, has transformed industries, and has democratized access to information for billions of people. Mobile internet has been more impactful globally than originally predicted and has become indispensable for conducting business and everyday life. Yet, we are in the early stages of mobile internet and need to ensure that technology continues to evolve in the right direction for the benefit of mankind. Mobile internet, like any other technology, can be a tool for progress and freedom but it can also be abused for reactionary purposes and oppression.
In this article, we focus on an important trend: people’s loss of control over their personal data and content. Today, we share our personal data freely (location, context, pictures, videos, etc.) with third parties; often not understanding the possible ramifications. For instance, we regularly submit our personal photos or videos to cloud services, giving companies royalty-free licenses to our personal content. This is not necessarily a conspiracy by companies like Facebook to steal the rights to our content. It is in fact necessary for many of these companies to safeguard themselves from lawsuits. Nevertheless, it is a dangerous trend threatening our freedom.
Facebook Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. Jan 30, 2015. Section 2.1:
For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.
There is a misconception that ordinary, law-abiding citizens do not care about their privacy. Pointing out to recent trends where many people share private moments publicly in social media, some have argued that “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear”. This is a scary argument that has historically been misappropriated by demagogues to suppress personal freedom. Definition of privacy differs from one individual to another. Some of us consider a personal portrait private while some willingly install webcams in our homes for the entire world to watch. Yet, our right to privacy is a cornerstone of our personal freedom.
Unfortunately, however, we have witnessed several reputable companies violating our privacy by sharing our personal data with government agencies and other institutions without our consent. Thankfully, whistleblowers exposed these violations and warned us that we need to remain vigilant and watchful. Once our personal information gets posted on a “cloud service” such as social media websites, it can find its way anywhere.
These cloud services provide valuable and often “free” services such as communications, maps, shopping assistance, internet banking, price comparisons, merchandise reviews, etc. Most “free” internet services use our personal data to derive revenues from targeted marketing or advertising. The most common ways are to skew our search results for a fee, or provide us targeted advertising in exchange for a “free” service or content. In most cases, these practices are harmless and often offer us immense value.
However, there are associated threats and potential costs. First and foremost, our public profiles and personal content can be analyzed by independent third parties in ways that compromise our privacy or harm us economically or socially. Moreover, our personal data can be more valuable than what we receive in exchange as “free” services. Yet, most of us are not aware of these potential threats and ways to combat them, or opportunities to better monetize our personal data.
Ideally, we must safeguard our personal digital freedom by applying at least the same level of common sense in our digital lives as we do in our physical lives. If we want to share something privately with a friend, we don’t use a third party to relay our message unless we have no direct means of communication. Yet, we do this habitually on the internet. We post our data on third party cloud services and have them manage how we share it with others. We do this partly because we trust large and reputable companies, and partly because we don’t understand how internet works. The primary reason, however, is that we have little choice but to trust third party cloud services to manage our personal data. There are many ways to protect our privacy such as encrypting our emails and anonymizing our online activity through commercial or open source anonymizers. However, the alternatives are either too complex or too expensive for the average citizen; most of us don’t have the technical skills to use these technologies to safeguard our privacy.
To protect our personal data and privacy, we must take control of our digital lives. The keywords are choice, consent, and control.
- We should choose, in real-time, how our personal information is accessed and shared with others.
- We should consent real-time how our personal data is treated.
- We should have simple ways of managing and controlling our communications.
- We should decide what information we trust to third parties and post on public social media sites and what information remains private
This is what we call digital freedom. Here are some fundamental requirements to achieve it:
- all our digital assets should be available to us anytime, anywhere
- discovery, curation and selection of content should be simple, intuitive, and immediate
- setting and changing permission levels should be simple, intuitive, and immediate
- we should be able to add meta data to our content to make it easily discoverable
- interaction with other users should be simple, intuitive and immediate
- there should be no footprint of our personal content on the web unless we agree
- we should be in complete control of where our data is stored
- we should be able to easily allow multiple applications to use our data
- content should remain on the originating device unless we decide otherwise
- internet should be used only if necessary; all traffic should remain as local as possible
- content conditioning should happen locally unless we decide otherwise
The most challenging aspect of such a paradigm is the fragmentation in hardware, operating systems, and networks. We have many incompatible platforms (android, iOS, Windows, etc.) and incompatible networks (LTE, Wi-Fi, BT, etc.). This fragmentation has led to indirect and irrational ways of how our digital lives are created and managed.
We need a platform that puts us in complete control of all our digital assets no matter where we are and what computing device we have on our person. Only then, we can proclaim that we have achieved digital freedom.
(*) About the Author
Siavash Alamouti is a pioneer and thought leader in open mobile internet. His inventions and industry initiatives have touched everyone globally. His space-time block code (known as Alamouti code) is included in over 10 billion devices. His contributions to the adoption of OFDMA/MIMO in 4G with Mobile WiMAX is what eventually led to a more open international standard with LTE. He is the visionary behind the WiGig Alliance and inclusion of mmWave technology in the WiFi Alliance Roadmap. Close to 20,000 citations to-date in Google Scholar is an indicator of the level impact on the modern technology landscape. His passionate lobbying for spectrum reform with FCC in the US and globally at ITU opened the path for the adoption of smart antenna and OFDMA technologies in the unlicensed and licensed bands in the US and eventually globally. He is an advocate of decentralized power in business, society, and technology and believes that decentralization is a key factor to ensure a sustainable global ecosystem. In the last few years, he has been quietly focused on enabling distributed edge cloud to help democratize personal data and decentralization of “cloud” and its extension to the edge. Before joining mimik as President & CEO, he was the Group R&D Director at Vodafone in London, UK where he managed R&D, corporate venture, and intellectual property for the entire group. Prior to Vodafone, he was an Intel Fellow and CTO of the Mobile Wireless Group. Before Intel, Alamouti was the CTO at the start up Vivato and prior to that had senior technology roles in Cadence Design Systems, AT&T Wireless Services, McCaw Cellular, and MPR Teltech Ltd.