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Edge: Paving the way to AI and 5G

Image: Adobe Stock / Connect world

Donna Johnson, VP product and solution marketing at Cradlepoint, defines the edge, its benefits, and how it’s paving the way for emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and 5G.

Most businesses are anticipating the fruition of several extraordinary technologies being crafted over the next few years – technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and 5G.  

Edge computing will be central to the widespread success of these technologies.  It will help organisations intelligently manage their network edge, ultimately supporting the evolution of IoT, AI, and 5G in the future. 

As more devices are connected to the cloud — and IoT systems progress in a ‘ready-or-not, here we come’ fashion — edge computing will soon become a well-known practice.

Finding the edge

To understand how edge computing will impact the enterprise, it’s important to first define where the edge is located.  

An enterprise might define the edge as the remote setting where the end customer or IoT device is installed, whereas a mobile network operator might define the edge slightly differently – as anything not in the data centre.  

The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) uses the term Multi‑Access Edge Computing (MEC) to describe edge computing.  

Network operators across the world are starting to deploy MEC within their networks, starting at the Radio Access Network (RAN), and then being deployed closer to the core of the network, based on the use case.

For many businesses, connecting, managing, and securing the ever-increasing volumes of IoT devices and data comes with daunting challenges. 

IoT is an integral part of a wider shift in enterprise networking – from a fixed edge in offices, stores and restaurants, to an elastic edge, expanding how businesses work and interact with customers.   

Edge computing benefits

Edge computing co-locates computing, storage, and networking functions closer to where the data originates.  

All edge devices – routers, sensors, smart devices, and much more ­– can do edge computing.  

This reduces the amount of data being sent back and forth between devices and the cloud, saving time and power, conserving bandwidth, and reducing latency.  

Edge computing will provide additional security for safer transactions, as well as rapid and cost-effective scaling under a common infrastructure.  

This is important because storing data in the cloud is no longer a huge cost saving exercise for businesses.  

It can cost nearly $4,000 USD per petabyte for long-term cloud storage, and nearly 10 times that amount for real-time access storage.  

With edge computing, applications can send less data to the cloud, instead processing more at the edge. 

A smart city parking solution, for example, might be connected to video cameras that identify open parking spaces. With edge computing capabilities, these will only need to transmit meta data, instead of the whole video stream.

Powering IoT, 5G and AI

Edge computing will help pave the way for IoT, 5G, and AI, according to the Open Fog Consortium, a global coalition of technology industry leaders and academic institutions working to standardise and promote edge computing.  

IoT isn’t just about new innovative technologies, it’s also generating new business values and powering new business and production processes.

Gartner states that 20.4 billion connected things are expected to be in use by 2020, and according to the 2017 global IoT decision maker survey from International Data Corporation (IDC), an estimated 45% of the world’s data will be moved closer to the network edge by the year 2025.  

Edge computing is the only architecture capable of taking on this amount of machine data. Because edge computing is a horizontal architecture, it can support multiple industries.

451 Research identifies utilities, transportation, healthcare, and the industrial sectors as the largest markets for edge computing.  

It’s is on track to pick up speed and will play a crucial role in IoT, AI, 5G, and other advanced and connected systems, guaranteeing the connection of ‘cloud-to-things’ success and driving future business value.

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