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Edge Computing Experiments at Carnegie Mellon Get Lift from Azure

Walking crowd and mesh communication network concept

Microsoft is the latest company to join a program at Carnegie Mellon University to experiment with "edge" computing, the idea of bringing computing and storage resources closer to the user to reduce latency and data traffic. The university's Open Edge Computing Initiative is running a set of projects to help researchers and industry understand the benefits and limitations of this technological approach.

Current experiments in the Initiative's Living Edge Laboratory include the use of edge computing for cognitive assistance. A National Science Foundation-sponsored project is developing the "Gabriel" platform, so named because the application acts as an "angel on your shoulder." According to lab director and Carnegie Group Professor of Computer Science Mahadev "Satya" Satyanarayanan, Gabriel is intended to observe a user and provide advice on a task, which could come in handy, for example, when a non-health professional needs to use a medical device during an emergency or somebody simply wants help assembling furniture or repairing a machine.

Another application for edge computing is to help visually impaired people maneuver the world. For example, video feeds of a stereoscopic camera on a user could be transmitted to a nearby "cloudlet" (a small-scale cloud that's closer to the action) to generate video analytics in real time, to detect obstacles and transmit information back to the user via "vibro-tactile" feedback (vibration through touch).

"The Living Edge Laboratory not only can help determine what types of applications are possible, but also what kind of equipment or software works best for a given application," Satyanarayanan said in a statement.

The Lab already works with a number of companies, including Deutsche Telekom Group, communications infrastructure company Crown Castle, Intel and mobile provider Altiostar, among others.

Now Microsoft has committed to contributing the use of its products and services for two years. The Lab will gain access to Azure Data Box Edge, a solution currently in preview; Azure Stack; and Azure credits to cover usage of cloud services such as artificial intelligence, Internet of Things and storage. School officials said the addition of Microsoft technology will enable lab users — faculty and students as well as industry participants — to develop new applications and then measure their performance against other components already in the lab.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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