What is fog computing? Before we delve into the details of fog networking and LoRa technology, let’s note both concepts belong to the Internet of Things (IoT) and machine-to-machine (M2M) communication. If you need an insight into the nearest future of IoT, just consider the fact it underlies a so-called fourth industrial revolution (or industry 4.0) where AI becomes the main game-changer.
Some experts even dare to call it “the rise of the machines” referring to dystopian sci-fi, but we prefer a realistic view of IoT as a huge growth driver for business. Just a few numbers to speak for themselves: there will be more than 75 billion active IoT devices by 2025 globally, according to Statista (a dramatic increase in comparison to current 26 billion in 2019).
The promised boom of M2M tech requires a sustainable infrastructure and it’s the point where the fog computing paradigm along with LoRa technology is coming to use. For a better understanding of fog networking, let’s briefly turn to the basics of IoT model (if you already have a solid grasp of it, just skip to the next question).
What is a traditional IoT model?
As any other IT system, the IoT architecture virtually consists of two technological layers:
- The frontend (or the edge level) — includes a variety of edge (peripheral) devices for industrial, domestic or lifestyle application: thermometers, sensors, pet trackers, cameras, smart wearables, robot arms, you name it. These hardware units, stuffed with microchips, are “smart” enough to gather and communicate certain raw data via network gateways to the backend data centers rendering SaaS and PaaS to the customers.
- The backend (servers, home to a cloud-based AI) — a cloud layer of IoT with the allocated data storage and data processing capacities utilizing and interpreting the raw data from the edge. It is responsible for all the machine-aided intelligence, analytics and decision making, while the resulting commands are to be delivered back to the edge in order to manipulate hardware in a response to a specific situation.
Why may IoT facilities shift from Cloud to Fog computing?
What’s wrong with Cloud? As of today, 26 billion of existing edge devices are producing exabytes of technical information and these numbers are expected to grow exponentially over the next decade. Sending a giant volume of data to distant cloud servers is an expensive and inefficient process — it comes with many problems, like unavoidable bandwidth shortages, high storage costs, signal latency, sustainability issues, data safety risks, etc.
When fog is required? Fog-based networks are more sustainable, so they are demanded by IoT systems tolerating no latency, e.g. fire response, emergency prevention, active healthcare supervision or dangerous industrial process monitoring.
What is Fog computing and how does it work?
Fog networking (aka fog computing or just fogging) is a “decentralized” alternative to a cloud-oriented model because it tends to bring more computing to the frontend layer, and thus to minimize the outgoing transactions using the Internet and remote cloud servers.
Fogging delegates data aggregation and some decision-making tasks to “smart things” themselves and virtual machine instances emulated on fog routers. As the fog computing capacities are located closer to the edge, they provide reduced latency and a better quality of service.
What is the principle of Fog computing?
It can be briefly formulated as such: each node of the system, which can be physically or logically defined as an independent unit, should strive to process the heavyweight raw data it collects, so to elevate lightweight formalized abstractions (data products) to the system’s upper tier.
What are Fog Pros and Cons vs Cloud?
Advantages of fog computing are the following:
- Real-time responding: owing to low latency, fogging works well for applications and situations that require a rapid reaction that cannot be guaranteed by distant cloud servers.
- Data safety: a large portion of data is kept locally on the edge gateways, with fewer outbound web transactions, and thus lower risks of packet sniffing or other spying.
- Autonomous operation: temporal disconnection from the Internet or peer devices does not make a problem for a fog network because the edge router can function as a mini-cloud and no vital services are interrupted.
- Filtering: fog devices are capable of local detection and removal of false signals and jitter based on smart patterns, so it reduces the outgoing traffic.
- Peer-to-peer integration: fog allows direct interconnection of IoT components without routing to a cloud server in between.
- Cost-efficient: the smarter the edge devices become (by getting better CPUs and extended storage capacity), the easier it’s to deploy a decent fog network even with a limited budget.
Disadvantages of fog architecture:
- Edge servers and hubs: buying and maintaining smart edge routers and gateways that are capable of sub-cloud operations may contribute to higher up-front spending on IoT deployment (yet it’s not a super significant factor in a prolonged prospective).
- More administration: as the cloud is still much more powerful than any fog solution, the latter one might suffer resource scarcity (like running out of free space on a server’s hard drive) and thus it may need more attentive and skillful resource management.
What is LoRa technology?
LoRa (Long Range, aka Semtech’s LoRa) is a radio frequency technology with a long transmission range, utilizing low power chipsets. LoRa is used in many wireless IoT networks (LoRaWAN) around the globe, from large projects like smart cities and industrial or agriculture facilities to family homes.
Is LoRa an alternative to Wi-Fi or LAN?
LoRa can be an alternative to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, LAN or cellular solutions when it comes to covering large areas with minimal power consumption and limited bandwidth needs, as LoRa’s gateway data rate is pretty low (only 290 bps – 50 Kbps) — it’s enough for receiving data from allocated censors, but not enough for a streaming video or other resource-intensive tasks.
What are the best features of LoRa technology?
- Works on a long distance: LoRa gateway can interconnect devices over ~50 kilometers, which makes it equally good for both large rural areas or dense urban locations (like university campuses, office buildings, factories, etc) with a signal going through concrete walls and large-scale objects.
- Affordable operating costs: reduced number of LoRa gateways, low energy consumption plus optimized battery lifetime (~9 years).
- Encrypted: features end-to-end AES128 protection and two-end authentication.
- Standardized: LoRa gateways and other components are comparably cheap and easy to deploy with a myriad of devices adapted to them.
- Geolocates objects without GPS.
- Connects to moving objects without additional energy waste.
- Maintains a huge number of tech messages aggregated on a base station.
In a nutshell
Internet of Things (IoT) has a wonderful future and everyone can be an active part of it. LoRa and fog technologies, when used together, can provide a powerful combination of benefits to a number of industries including healthcare, logistics, agriculture, education, smart homes, etc. Owing to LoRa, IoT projects can become more affordable, and fog computing makes them sustainable and self-reliant. Make sure to implement IoT into your business and enjoy plenty of opportunities it grants.