The Intelligent Edge: A Deep Dive into Edge Computing with Robert Reid

The industrial data landscape is rapidly evolving because of emerging communications and processing technologies that allow organizations to more efficiently collect data and act upon it in real-time at the device and sensor level– something we at FreeWave like to call ‘Edge Computing.’

The money, time and resource-conserving possibilities are endless with Edge Computing, and industrial organizations are quickly looking to adapt this technology to stay ahead.

For the ninth installment in our series “The Intelligent Edge,” we caught up with Senior Software Engineer Bob Reid to discuss his expertise in developing emerging Edge technology – like ZumIQ – at the ‘nuts and bolts’ level.  His experience in developing new technology and taking it to the very edge (literally) is vast.

FreeWave: Tell us more about yourself. How did you get started in software engineering?

Bob Reid: I started writing software at a young age on Apple II computers, but my background is in space science. I have degrees in astronomy and planetary sciences and got involved with a couple Mars missions in the late ‘90s during my time at the University of Arizona.

FreeWave: What did you do for the Mars missions? What was it like?

Bob Reid: Our team built the cameras for the landers, and I was responsible for image calibration software. During landed operations, we had to follow the Mars day, which is 24 hours and 37 minutes long. There would be times where my work day would start at 8am and then about a week later it would start in the afternoon. There were times where my day would start at 1am – it was an experience.

After my work with Mars, I went on to work for the Army developing software for soldier training. I helped develop tools for data collection, analysis, and review of data generated by sensors on equipment and personnel. It really expanded my ability as a professional software developer before coming to FreeWave.

FreeWave: What is your focus at FreeWave primarily?

Bob Reid: Recently I’ve been focused on ZumIQ on both our App Server and ZumLink radios. I’ve written applications and supported customers on this platform. I also support our Windows-based radio management utility, Tool Suite. I’ve been here long enough to get into a little bit of everything.

FreeWave: What programming languages do you work with the most?

Bob Reid: In the past year, I’ve worked with JavaScript, TypeScript, Python, Lua, C#, Java, and Node-RED. During my work with the ZumIQ platform, I’ve been able to learn a lot of new languages. It’s really allowed me to explore the space. If it will run on Linux it will run on ZumIQ.

FreeWave: What is the ZumIQ? Tell us a little more about it.

Bob Reid: ZumIQ is an embedded system – in the same class as a Raspberry Pi in capability – but it’s ruggedized. It can operate anywhere our current radios do, and it allows our customers to develop their own custom applications or implement third-party applications at the edge to solve problems. ZumIQ is a wide-open platform – we haven’t placed a lot of restrictions on it. The hardware is capable of withstanding rugged and remote locations with extreme weather that other products may not be able to survive in.

FreeWave: Can you share some real-world examples of how ZumIQ is used?

Bob Reid: Sure thing. In oil & gas, companies can install ZumIQ at its well sites to collect more data at a higher resolution and analyze the data at the site. Companies can also use ZumIQ to send back the data that matters, or all the data, back to the cloud for analysis, or the software can make decisions right at the edge. The benefit here is that if your central network goes down, you can still continue to function at the edge with ZumIQ’s capabilities.

At these well sites, companies can use ZumIQ to monitor their status and take action if necessary with predictive analysis. An application can find trends within all the data it collects and analyzes, such as if a tank level falls by a certain threshold – companies can then send out a technician out in case something is failing. That’s just one example – there are so many ways ZumIQ can be used across many industries.

FreeWave: What are you looking forward to in the future for ZumIQ?

Bob Reid: I’m really looking forward to integrating all the components of ZumIQ and creating a one-for-all platform. Taking the Application Server, Application Environment, ZumLink technologies and more, and packaging it all up so companies only need one product to meet all their future needs. That’s what I’m excited to see in the future.

FreeWave: Before we let you go, what has been your most memorable problem you’ve helped solve?

Bob Reid: There have been so many problems I’ve helped solve, so it’s hard to say. One does stand out – back when I was calibrating images for Mars. It wasn’t just about taking a single picture. We would take image of rocks in several different wavelengths to generate a reflectance spectrum. From that, we were able to do remote sensing to figure out the composition objects on Mars by comparing to reflectance spectra of know materials in a lab.

But to figure that out, we had to correct for the Solar illumination, atmospheric illumination, the angle of the rock face, camera sensitivity at different wavelengths, data compression, etc. That was my first professional software project, and I have fond memories of it.

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Enjoyed learning about what our line of talented experts have to say? Stay tuned for the next Intelligent Edge conversation! In the meantime, catch up on all the blogs in our series here.

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