For example, if the parts of a rail car are instrumented to continually report whether they're in good working condition, a router located on the rail car could collect and process that data by itself. It would do nothing until it received a signal that showed one of the parts might be headed for failure. Then the router could report back to the cloud over a 3G or satellite link. No wide-area bandwidth would be used to send the millions of "I'm OK" messages.
On top of reducing the data burden on networks, the distributed computing infrastructure will help IoT devices operate when network connections are lost and keep enterprises from having to transport sensitive data beyond the site where it's produced, according to Cisco.
Distributing the handling of IoT data should speed up an enterprise's data analysis and decision-making, according to analyst Steve Hilton of IoT consulting firm Machnation. The security implications are important, too, he said.
"This is particularly useful in situations where sensor data cannot be transported across country boundaries for legal or regulatory reasons -- a very common issue in cloud IT deployments," Machnation's Hilton said in a blog post on Wednesday.