Users’ devices (e.g. smart phones, with ever growing storage and processing capabilities, acting as hot-spots), and a multitudes of smart objects and things (e.g. from Consumers’ Electronics) with embedded communications, will create new challenges and opportunities at the edge of the network. It is estimated that, in less than ten years, there will be a few hundreds of billions of electronic devices (including machines, sensors, actuators, etc) connected with each other and to the Internet. A wave, innovating networks, starting at the edge.
At the edge (in the last few meters) there will (soon) be a growing number of such communicating entities, with powerful storage and processing capabilities, interacting one each other locally. Imagine cars or Users having a sort of communication halo around them (i.e. a range of connection, interaction). Imagine also kiosks and lamp streets having their own halos. Overlapping halos will allow networks to emerge spontaneously (as flocks of birds flying around). Short-middle range connectivity will be covered by local device-to-device communications, whilst long range interactions will be enabled by hopping into the big Net. Services and data will be virally delivered through multiple devices, machines, objects mostly by using local resources.
Is this scenario so far away in the future ? Not really: some military solutions (almost ready for civilian needs) are already available.
Today, creating – your own “halo” – by yourself would cost you less than one or two hundred euros (obviously depending on what and how many devices you wish to have). You may like to include, for example, an Android smart phone (which can act also as Wi-Fi Hot Spot), one (or more) cheap, tiny PC (e.g. a Raspberry Pi for $ 25) and one (or more) microcontroller (e.g. based on Arduino) for controlling any sensor, actuator or electronic gadget.
It will be like a fully fledged wireless personal area network (with thousands of free applications available on the web). Once equipped with autonomic features it will be ready to interact spontaneously with other people’s halos to create dynamic local networks. Welcome to Edge Networks.
This scenario raises important issues for Stakeholders to consider. Are we ready?