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Data, Data, Everywhere, but is the ‘Edge’ What You Think?

“How do you take all of this data and turn it into insight?”. These technology leaders discussed edge data and how they are utilising this in their organisations.

Edge data is often classified as data located in the outermost boundary of a network or between IoT devices. The edge can have different meanings in different organisations, and each utilises their edge data in their own individual ways. The speakers of this roundtable discuss their idea of edge data, how they’re using it and how that can be translated to C-level executives from a business value perspective. 

With Jon Bernstein moderating this roundtable debate, the speakers include:

What does the edge mean?

Moderator Jon Bernstein asked the speakers what edge data means to them and their organisations. 

“The edge of the future is much more distributed”, said Chief Technologist of CME Industry and EMEA at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Chris Dando. He believes that the edge is changing, and not just in a single place. He argued that to different people, the edge can mean different things. Enterprises have thought of the edge as being a door, a hospital, a manufacturing site and so on. “I think it’s coming to terms with some of the impact of having data at the edge which is business-critical now”, he stated. 

Director of Data & Analytics at Nest, Christina Finlay, stated that she will be listening to what other people are saying in regards to data at the edge. “It’s definitely one for the future”, she said in response to Jon’s question: “Is it one for the future or one for the now?” This, she believes, is critical when it comes to understanding what a government pension might require in the future. This is also key in order to understand her company’s customers and investments. 

From a construction point of view, the edge is “one for the future” for CDO at VolkerWessels UK, Simon White. He argued that data at the edge can be linked to digital twins. “I think it will give a really clear benefit when we’ve got really clean processes and got digital twins that you can do predictive analytics on”, he said. On the other hand, he pointed out that they are quite ready to begin this process now.

Martyn Wallace believes there is an opportunity to use edge data for his organisation. “There’s plenty of opportunity for it to actually give it a real time analysis and data to make the business quicker”, he said. When considering the edge, he looks at the topic from an IoT and health point of view. 

Storing edge data

Chris believes that technology leaders should want to be as close to the data source as possible. In addition to this, he also thinks that they should perform some kind of analysis on the data at the edge rather than “sending anything back to the centre”. There are reasons you can’t do this according to Chris. “Whether it be the speed of communications, reliability or the ability to take communications over those long distances”, he said.

What’s not working?

“We need to think of this as being a step change in the technologies and the way that we manage it”, said Chris. He explained that companies have got the technologies that help the edge. On the other hand, he thinks of the edge as a hostile environment compared to a data centre in the cloud. Chris also asked the speakers to consider the environmental requirements. “How do you manage a distributed infrastructure rather than just deploy and forget about it?”, he said. 

Moderator Jon Bernstein argued there is a danger that technology leaders are becoming very technical. “We’re getting lost in the weeds”. He asked Martyn how he makes the business case to the CFO or the CEO. 

“Working in the public sector for the last six years has been human by default and technology and data by design”, said Martyn. When looking at edge computing, he believes that there is an opportunity for rural communities, community-based and place based architectural services. The intervention for communities, he argued, would require ASP computing tasks to improve their systems. This is because “trying to get that link back to the centre” is going to be difficult for those rural communities.

Simon stated that his company’s vision is driven by data and people. While he considers that technology acts as an enabler it’s the people, those with experience, who add the value. “That is how we show the value back to the business. So aggregating all those different data sources”, he explained. Simon pointed out that people are talking about certified data sets changing that culture. “Technology is delivering that for them”, he said.

Unifying your edge data – what needs to happen?

“Technology is moving much much faster than the people in the business”, Christina said. For her, it’s all about storytelling and turning that data into insight. She argued that it may not be as simple as it seems for large chunks of the organisation. “We’ve got pockets of the organisation that are really data-literate and running on data and other pockets that’s not”, she said. In order to get these people working on these data sources, leaders need to outline the insight and the actions they need to take. Christina stated that technology leaders need to invest some more time in getting their vision working across the board. 

Jon asked Christina whether that’s a cultural barrier that leaders need to overcome rather than a technology barrier. Agreeing with this view, she added that it is also a cultural shift showing that rather than being subjective, the data brings in an objective overview.

This roundtable was recorded at The Studio and made in partnership with Hewlett Packard Enterprise. To find out more about The Studio, click here.