Not long ago, businesses created, processed and stored their essential data in centralized data centers. The need for quicker response times has helped to drive the deployment of mobile and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions at scale, however, that model is continuing to evolve.
5G Edge can help play a pivotal role in enabling this next wave of digital transformation, allowing companies in a wide variety of sectors to embrace emerging technologies and enable exciting innovations that delight their customers. Here's what 5G Edge is, why it matters and how businesses are starting to use it.
What is edge computing?
Edge computing is technology that can bring the processing of data and applications closer to the edge of a network (and closer to devices and endpoints).
Data is usually processed in one of two ways: directly on devices, such as a smartphone or an IoT device, or in the cloud. In a cloud computing scenario, businesses can use sophisticated technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to analyze and process large volumes of data at high velocity in the cloud. Many businesses have leveraged these cloud capabilities to perform predictive analytics on large data sets and, in doing so, they have discovered effective strategies for improving the customer experience or highlighting new opportunities in the market. Cloud computing has afforded these companies the tremendous flexibility and agility that they need to innovate at scale.
Although cloud computing is a powerful digital transformation enabler, it has limitations. Because cloud computing operations are typically carried out in data centers that may be located hundreds or thousands of miles away, businesses may find it hard to ensure acceptable application performance across the wide area network (WAN) due to latency, bandwidth consumption and other complications. In the case of time-sensitive tasks that involve executing near-instantaneous calculations on vast data sets, like the kinds of analytics that would be required to help an autonomous vehicle safely navigate a dangerous situation on the road, a traditional cloud computing approach may simply not be able to return the analysis in the time required, making the vehicle unsafe to use and no longer viable from a product standpoint.
By bringing crucial computing resources closer to the network edge, where the data is being generated, edge computing can help provide better applications performance. Rather than having to send large quantities of data from the endpoints where it is collected all the way to a cloud data center and back again, businesses can run complex analyses and perform intricate calculations directly on that data right at the edge. Because this approach allows a company to maximize the transformative benefits of cloud computing without having to contend with its drawbacks, more businesses are embracing edge computing.
What is 5G Edge?
5G Edge is a form of mobile edge computing (MEC) that uses network connectivity which can be provided by 4G LTE or 5G. With 5G (the latest generation of mobile technology) 5G Edge can enable even lower latency at the edge, allowing for the kind of near real-time data processing that enables near real-time decision-making and superior application performance. 5G Edge is crucial to the deployment of large-scale IoT applications and services, empowering businesses to act on the insights generated by their IoT devices. It will also support emerging use cases that are grounded in next-generation technologies like AI, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).
How businesses can use 5G and edge computing
5G Edge can unlock impressive business improvements across a variety of sectors such as sports and entertainment, retail and manufacturing. For example, venue operators can leverage 5G and edge computing for crowd analytics, which, in turn, can make it possible for them to reduce wait times at concession stands, improve wayfinding within the stadium, and manage traffic flow before and after the game. With these advanced capabilities, teams could simultaneously increase customer satisfaction, boost revenue and improve safety.
Retailers can use 5G Edge to enable cashierless checkout, combining computer vision and ML to enable seamless shopping. Front-end analytics can help them optimize inventory, while computer vision-based algorithms can highlight opportunities to increase sales. With more convenient transactions, shoppers can simply walk out of the store with their purchases, without needing to queue at a cash register to pay. Personnel that would otherwise be required to help those shoppers cash out could be redirected to higher-value customer service activities, elevating the customer experience even further.
Manufacturers can tap 5G Edge, private MEC and computer vision to help achieve better quality assurance for production, improving efficiency in their production operations in the process. For example, manufacturing firms can use these technologies to quickly detect product issues on the production line before they threaten productivity and enable production monitoring and alerts that flag errors faster. By reducing the need for manual quality assurance processes and accelerating error response times, they can decrease wastage and get a better handle on production costs.
Explore the advantages of 5G Edge
As businesses rush to maximize the value of the data they are generating at the edge, particularly on mobile and IoT devices, they are increasingly realizing that cloud computing, while a perfect fit for many digital transformation scenarios, is not ideally suited for processing this data at scale in the time required for the use cases to be viable. 5G Edge offers companies an effective method not only for analyzing this data in near real-time but also for successfully leveraging next-generation technologies, such as AI and ML as well as AR and VR, to enhance the customer experience, reduce costs and make their internal operations more efficient. By exploring the benefits of 5G Edge now, your businesses can continue on its path of bold digital transformation and achieve an enviable advantage over the competition.
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The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.