How 5G IoT
connected devices
help cut IT costs

Author: Mike Elgan

The safe, prosperous and convenient world that technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) promise—self-driving cars, smart cities, walk-around augmented reality (AR)—demands high-bandwidth, low-latency and low-cost wireless networks.

One powerful component making this vision a reality is multi-access edge computing (MEC), a network architecture that places the power and services of cloud computing closer to the user of a wireless network, such as at the cellular base station. It represents the convergence of IT and telecommunications networks and is one of the key enablers for managing IoT connected devices.

MEC architecture, defined by a standards framework developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute, will be driven by mass adoption and deployment of IoT, faster mobile broadband technologies (especially 5G) and the applications that demand low-latency processing of data.

Better management of IoT connected devices

Efficient networks support business outcomes, and MEC improves performance in part by reducing network congestion.

An extreme example of how MEC architecture could enable the future is self-driving cars. With these and other kinds of autonomous vehicles, a car using sensors to generate data about road, traffic and weather conditions and other information can connect via 5G for near-real time processing through artificial intelligence (AI). By making data and applications available at the edge, onboard computers can receive feedback and information faster for near- instantaneous prediction and decision-making.

The self-driving car example is intuitive. Less intuitive but still powerful are safety and productivity enhancements for the factory floor. Near-real time processing of data for IoT connected devices means improved safety. Like a self-driving vehicle, a factory floor involves many sensors and autonomous robots generating volumes of data that have to be offloaded to the cloud for processing before instructions are then beamed back to manufacturing equipment and safety infrastructure. Using 5G and MEC-powered IoT in a manufacturing environment to catch problems before they occur can save time and money. Both safety and productivity rely on the speed of this communication and processing.

Every business that could benefit from wireless communications with low-latency data processing can benefit from MEC. Any organization that relies on safety, video streaming, AR, virtual reality (VR) and on-site experiential marketing may see strong business benefits from the combination of MEC and 5G. And while these applications tend to be specialized, the IoT will be far more generalized across many industries.

Benefits of IoT: how IoT and fast wireless cut costs

The IoT revolution comes with many benefits. Chief among these is how inexpensive IoT devices can be. But reaping the benefits of IoT requires that those devices also be small and energy efficient, enabling a great many of them to be deployed. Some of them must also be efficiently battery-powered, which means minimizing on-board processing capabilities.

Many IoT devices are small, inexpensive and good at one or a small number of tasks, including the collection of sensor or location data. They should also be good at offloading that data for further processing. And that's where the power of MEC and 5G come in for the future of IoT.

IoT devices can generate tons of data. Two of the benefits of IoT devices are low power consumption and low cost. By enabling low-latency processing of this data at the edge instead of on the devices or in the cloud, IoT solutions can remain flexible, and the devices themselves can:

  • Remain inexpensive.
  • Operate with minimal maintenance.
  • Use smaller, cheaper and long-lasting batteries.

Ultimately, all that means the whole operation can be made more cost-effective. In other words, data analytics, AI, and optimization functions remain at the edge with MEC, which keeps your IoT solution simple and inexpensive.

With MEC, security for IoT connected devices is built-in

Cyber security can be an expensive, staff-intensive, time-consuming responsibility to manage. Fortunately, MEC adds security to IoT applications. In fact, it's inherent in the design. By offering local chatter between a secure cloud and a secure device—rather than sending traffic over the public internet—security is inherently enhanced.

MEC still carries security risks. But these are significantly reduced simply by utilizing secure internet protocols like SMTPS, HTTPS, SSL and DNS. The point is that the streamlined, efficient structure of MEC can offer performance and security improvements.

You hear a lot about digital transformation, 5G, AI, IoT and hybrid clouds. A MEC architecture is the approach to making it all work together with high speed, low cost and enhanced security.

Discover how Verizon's 5G Edge can bring near real-time processing to the Internet of Things.