Edge gateways: Their role and importance in edge computing

An edge gateway (also sometimes known as an IoT gateway) is a IoT function that is located at the edge. An edge gateway connects IoT devices to edge infrastructure, primarily by translating IoT protocols into data formats that can be aggregated and processed at the edge.

What is an edge gateway?

An edge gateway (also sometimes known as an IoT gateway) is a IoT function that is located at the edge. An edge gateway connects IoT devices to edge infrastructure, primarily by translating IoT protocols into data formats that can be aggregated and processed at the edge. To learn more about the relationship between IoT and edge computing, see STL’s previous article on IoT and Edge computing: Requirements, benefits and use cases.

Edge gateways serve as a crucial intermediary between IoT devices and the edge or cloud, addressing challenges related to data processing, latency, security, and translating different protocols from multiple devices. Unlike traditional models where all data is sent to the cloud for analysis, edge gateways enable data analytics at the edge. This means that less valuable information can be filtered out before sending data to the cloud for processing or storage. This reduces the data transfer cost.

This article looks at the key topics around edge gateway, exploring its definition, use cases, hardware and software architecture, and the future trends that might impact its development.

What are some use cases of edge gateways in IoT?

Many use cases could benefit from the convergence of IoT and edge computing. This section delves deeper into some of the specific use cases to highlight the potential benefits of an edge gateway.

Connected vehicles

IoT sensors on connected vehicles collect data from the immediate surroundings and highlight potential hazards to drivers. Edge gateway capabilities are necessary to aggregate and translate IoT data from numerous sensors including cars and roadside infrastructure.

One other concern with connected vehicles is the security of user data. An edge gateway mitigates such security concerns with its capability of distributing security services across multiple edge nodes and pre-processing data before sending to the cloud for storage. By reducing the overall need for data transmission, an edge gateway reduces the likelihood of confidential information being obtained by third parties targeting the network through cyberattack. An edge gateway also acts as a defence line that identifies trusted access through robust authentication, improving the overall security of the network.

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Industrial IoT (IIoT)

In manufacturing, stakeholders are looking to improve factory efficiency and meet KPIs such as OEE (overall equipment effectiveness). However, for these applications to provide value in cost-effective, dependable, and repeatable ways at scale, the platform must provide a solid foundation.

An IIoT platform must have some core capabilities to enable the environment required for these diverse applications. Interoperability between legacy and more modern systems in particular is critical since manufacturing machinery often has long lifespans of twenty to thirty years or more. An edge gateway offers such integration capabilities and offers protocol conversions between different systems and devices. It manages workflow from both legacy and modern devices and consolidates them for further analysis.

What are the hardware and software components of an edge gateway?

The architecture of an edge gateway serves as a crucial link in the IoT ecosystem, securely connecting physical devices with the digital world. Hardware and software components enable the gateway to process, analyse, and relay data at the edge. This section explores the essential hardware layers, which include the device itself as well as the software components.

 

Hardware components

Gateway/device – fundamental edge gateway hardware, with a robust processing unit and memory for storing and processing data.

Connectivity interfaces – connectivity module that links IoT devices, such as Ethernet, mobile technologies (4G, 5G), Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, etc.

Security features – TPM (Trusted Platform Module) for hardware security via integrated cryptographic keys.

Software components

Security software – such as firewalls and encryption protocols designed to safeguard the edge gateway and guarantee the confidentiality and integrity of transmitted data.

Edge analytics/processing software – empower the gateway with tools needed to process and analyse data at the network edge, e.g., data management software, data analytics software, etc.

What future trends may impact edge gateways going forward?

The future of the edge gateway deployment is shaped by multiple market forces, including the growing convergence of IoT and edge, emerging needs for greater scalability due to large volume of data generated, and cybersecurity concerns brought on by growing confidentiality requirements and evolving network threats.

Scalability

Scalability requirements is one of the main factors that drives the deployment of edge gateways today. The connected vehicle use case covered in this article is one example where such a challenge arises. Connected cars generate massive volumes of data that demands real-time data processing and analysis to ensure driver safety. An edge gateway helps meet this scaling requirement by enabling localised data processing at the edge nodes. By doing so, it improves response times, reduces workloads by central systems, and maximises bandwidth utilisation. It enables connected cars to effectively handle the data workflow.

Security

IoT infrastructure often connects legacy equipment to the network. While this connectivity enables smart application and usage of the legacy devices, it also creates new potential threats on the network. By using crypto authentication and tamper detection, an edge gateway helps to protect against cyberattacks. It serves as a security proxy to identify possible dangers to the IoT ecosystem.

Market needs for converged edge IoT platforms

STL Partners predicts that edge IoT use cases will accelerate the overall growth of the edge market over the next three years. Edge enhanced IoT use cases are expected to grow from $18 billion in 2020 to $86 billion by the end of 2026 (source: STL Partners, Edge computing market sizing forecast, 2022). An increasing percentage of IoT use cases will require edge computing’s high bandwidth, low latency capabilities. Edge and IoT platforms, typically today considered as separate technologies, will need to converge, and edge gateways will be one key enabler of this.

Zoey Yin

Zoey Yin

Zoey Yin

Consultant

Zoey Yin is a Consultant at STL Partners, specialising in edge computing.

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