Edge computing: The future way to store and process data

November 6, 2019

By Meroe Park and Julie McPherson

We have come to rely on technology and interconnected devices for tasks that are both trivial and life-saving. Devices track how many steps we take in a day. Some tell us about heavy traffic on our commutes. Others alert us if burglars show up on our front porch.

The usefulness of a device depends on its ability to collect and process data, such as a security camera’s video feed and its ability to interpret the data. With more data being collected by more devices, conventional processing methods are becoming impractical.

At present, a typical device collects its data, sends it to a central repository for processing, gets the interpreted data back and presents it to the user. However, repositories and the networks may one day not be able to handle all of the data. Information systems, including the internet, could be crippled.

To solve this challenge, edge computing pushes data processing from a central location to where the data is collected; that is, to the “edge” of an interconnected network of devices.

Beyond its usefulness in everyday lives, edge computing could be critical for federal agencies.

Some agencies already are benefiting from edge computing. At a September 10 event co-hosted by the Partnership for Public Service and Booz Allen Hamilton, Federal Emergency Management Agency Chief Technology Officer Ted Okada said his agency is working with state, local and tribal governments to encourage the use of edge computing technologies that will integrate geospatial and visual data and result in getting better information to citizens during emergencies and disasters.

As more agencies consider how edge computing could help them achieve their mission, experts at the September 10 event recommended they should:

  • Invest in edge computing systems that can evolve as the technology matures.
  • Design information systems with security and privacy rights in mind.
  • Continue to invest in data storage and network bandwidth to ensure that information held by legacy systems remains accessible.
  • Consider how the data collected during day-to-day operations—if analyzed in real-time rather than stored and unanalyzed, even forgotten—could serve the public.
  • Work with other agencies to support the adoption of edge computing throughout the government.
  • Seek support from policymakers to fully harness the potential of edge computing.

Beyond edge computing, technologies including artificial intelligence and augmented and virtual reality are reshaping government operations, and disrupting how agencies achieve their missions.

To help agencies take advantage of such technologies, the Partnership and Booz Allen are hosting four more events between November 2019 and April 2020. Each event in the series explores a different technology, discusses its possibilities, outlines barriers to adoption and ways to overcome them, and provides immediate steps agencies can take to get ahead of the technology curve.

Sign up for the next event, AR/VR: Envisioning the Future of Immersive Experiences, on November 19 from 8:30 – 10:30 a.m. To get more information about the events, please email Madeleine Lowe at mlowe@ourpublicservice.org.

Meroe Park is the executive vice president of the Partnership for Public Service.

Julie McPherson is a senior vice president with Booz Allen Hamilton.