FAR-EDGE demostrates the feasibility and business value of Edge Computing (EC) applied to manufacturing, using Distributing Ledger Technology (DLT) as the key enabler. DLT allows several autonomous local processes to cooperate as peers in the scope of the same global process, the required state synchronization and common business loging being implemented by Smart Contracts. This approach, if applied correctly, results in totally decentralized and fail-safe CPS that are still easily monitored, controlled and managed centrally.
Adoption of new and disruptive technology is not an easy task for SME, due to lack of budget and of internal skills. To mitigate this problem, FAR-EDGE defines speficic migration strategies that may help SMEs plan their Industry 4.0 journey, with the support of FAR-EDGE assets.
In FAR-EDGE, the value of DLT is in distributed consensus: enabling the intelligent edge nodes of a system to agree - or disagree - on state transitions, to the effect that any change in global state (e.g., the assignment of a task to a specific node) must be approved collectively; moreover, individual nodes may fail or go offline without compromising the system as a whole. However, standard DLT platforms also maintain an immutable log of transactions (the Blockchain) that is replicated on all nodes, which may represent a significant performance bottleneck in many real-world applications. What we learned from the FAR-EDGE experimentation is that, in most factory automation scenarios, the historical memory of any transaction may be cleared once consensus is safely reached on it - something that is not supported by any current DLT implementation. This form of short-lived state persistency is something that is probably worth experimenting with in the future.