Welcome to Life at the Edge

Last week, TechCrunch ran an interesting feature on the rise of edge computing. Much of the article focused on a hypothesis that Peter Levine, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, and many others have championed: that cloud computing will soon be surpassed by edge computing, where real-time processing occurs at the connected device level. The argument is that connected devices need to make instant decisions and transmitting data back to the cloud for processing creates a delay. Computational speed is of the essence for self driving cars, robots, drones, and other internet of things (IoT) devices. If there’s a lag between data processing and action (or inaction) because data is being streamed back to the cloud, there can be serious consequences. For example, an autonomous vehicle may not be able to identify a pedestrian that runs out onto the road and brake in time if all the computer vision and processing has to be sent to the cloud and back. Additionally, there are cases where edge devices cannot or should not be connected to the cloud. Think about sensors on oil rigs in the middle of the ocean with limited connectivity or smart buildings where life support systems need to be hosted and maintained on-premise for maximum security and availability.

The promise of edge computing is that it will power our intelligent IoT ecosystems of the future, where everything is connected and communicating with each other. With the massive growth of the IoT, I fully subscribe to the idea that edge computing will gain a more significant role than cloud in coming years. Our partners at ARM estimate there will be a trillion devices built between now and 2035 as a result of increasing processing power, falling costs, and other advances in technology, making for ubiquitous connectivity. That doesn’t mean it’s lights out for cloud...running workloads in the cloud, analyzing huge volumes of data and leveraging it for machine learning and artificial intelligence will be critical in years to come. Whether computing is done in the cloud or at the edge will all depend on the context.

The real challenge is how do you build trusted relationships in this new connected world to ensure the security and privacy of the data being collected, analyzed, and shared by IoT devices? And make certain that these devices are not compromised? There’s an urgent need for IoT security. We’ve already seen the headlines: connected car hacks, DDoS attacks powered by botnets of unsecured IoT devices, smart homes compromised...the list goes on. There needs to be a way to secure the IoT, at scale.

At ForgeRock, we’re leaders in digital identity for the IoT and have seen our customers leverage the flexibility and scalability of the ForgeRock Identity Platform to secure their connected devices. But how can you extend identity beyond smart devices that have the processing power and interfaces necessary for a human to interact with them? Security is also critical for edge devices that have low computing power and no UI, like smoke detectors and embedded devices in a connected car.

This spring, we took it to the next level with the announcement of our Early Access Program for ForgeRock Edge Security. Comprised of the Identity Edge Controller and the Identity Message Broker, ForgeRock Edge Security finally provides a way to extend identity to edge devices for a new level of privacy and security. The Identity Message Broker helps to authenticate, secure, and authorize data flowing to and from devices. The Identity Edge Controller helps to build trusted relationships with edge devices and enables management of devices at scale, dealing with tasks like device onboarding, token management, and Hardware Root of Trust. Notably, the Identity Edge Controller can function autonomously, without connection to the ForgeRock Identity Platform, ideal for deployments in environments where a constant internet connection may not be possible. With ForgeRock Edge Security, you can establish and maintain the full lifecycle of IoT devices and the data that they generate. You will be able to ensure that identities and credentials associated with IoT devices are trusted and usable between devices, between devices and humans, and with cloud systems as well. ForgeRock Edge Security works seamlessly with the ForgeRock Identity Platform to provide end-to-end security for IoT deployments.

Talking to our customers, I constantly hear that they’re looking for identity solutions that are not only ready for their current projects around employees and customers but for the future as well. IoT is set to influence every industry. Don’t let the innovation that comes with IoT introduce insecurity.

Mike Ellis is Chairman and CEO at ForgeRock. You can follow him on Twitter @MikeEllis100