Over the years, there has been a shift to edge computing as businesses take advantage of a hyper-converged infrastructure to deal with the increasing data volumes. Analysys Mason suggests that the majority of businesses across industries can expect a 10-30 per cent reduction in costs using edge computing and an average operational cost saving of 10-20 per cent.

Edge computing has penetrated industries including manufacturing, healthcare, retail and automotive. A look at some of the use cases of edge computing across industries…

Retail

Edge computing is being used in the retail sector to leverage new technologies such as internet of things (IoT). It improves operational efficiency, and provides insights into customer behaviour and trends using data. Moreover, edge computing has a significant impact on the retail stock inventory. Edge devices including sensors, radio-frequency identification (RFID) devices and cameras enable retailors to track their inventory and  its exact location in the store, and items that are fast selling and in demand.

Through edge computing and IoT devices, retailers can communicate with customers’ devices and enable them to create their shopping list anywhere. Retail giants like Amazon Go and Decathlon use the technology in their retail stores to make the entire shopping experience seamless. Besides, retailers can position sensors around the store to detect foot traffic to efficiently manage the space.

At stores, IoT-driven backroom technology such as RFID, real-time point of sale (PoS) and smart shelving can significantly improve the accuracy of inventory tracking throughout the supply chain. Some stores already use PoS systems linked to tablets that let associates process transactions anywhere on the floor. Moreover, smart fitting rooms equipped with augmented reality mirrors can allow shoppers to virtually check the size, fit and style of different clothes without physically trying them on.

In addition to the unique customer experience, edge computing assists in collecting customer data, evaluating trends and mapping out purchasing patterns, which can help with internal processes such as warehouse management. Further, retailers can easily implement an inventory management system using edge computing to include labelling, pricing and procurement.

Manufacturing

Perhaps no industry stands to benefit more from edge technology than the manufacturing sector. With devices such as sensors and actuators, edge computing is set to be a crucial part of the industrial internet of things (IIoT) ecosystem. According to McKinsey, IIoT will create $7.5 trillion in value by 2025.

Edge computing devices collect massive amounts of data, which helps manufacturers achieve higher product quality and greater foresight with predictive maintenance. In order to manage assets efficiently, high-value parts, raw materials and tools can be equipped with location-type sensors or RFID tags. This enables manufacturers to monitor the condition of their assets remotely.

In February 2020, Tech Mahindra had set up a Google Cloud Centre of Excellence in Hyderabad to drive the digital transformation of enterprises globally. Further, Dell recently helped a Japanese electronics manufacturer Daihen Corporation scale up its IoT-powered monitoring with an edge analytics solution. After equipping the factory with additional sensors and rolling out a real-time analytics platform, powered by the edge, the Daihen Corporation saved over 5,000 hours on manual data entry per year.

Going forward, combining edge computing with 5G or Wi-Fi 6 will open up new possibilities and help in the creation of smart factories with connected robots and vehicles. These production facilities can be operated remotely to increase productivity.

Automotive

In the automotive space, Gartner predicted that global connected vehicles would generate over 280 petabytes of data by 2020, with at least 4 TB of data being generated in a day, and around 470 million connected vehicles will hit the roads by 2025. To function effectively and securely, autonomous cars will need to engage in a high-volume real-time data transmission. However, even with the arrival of 5G connectivity, the reliability and speed of such exchanges may not be sufficient to meet the ecosystem needs. Automobile makers are focused on leveraging edge computing to address these ever-evolving challenges.

Powered by predictive analytics models, edge computing can continuously monitor various parameters of the vehicle, such as ambient temperature, mileage, tire inflation, braking, acceleration and speed/force, and predict if any component is likely to fail, in which case it alerts the vehicle owner. The edge computing architecture enables autonomous vehicles to collect, process and share data. It enables connected cars to provide near-real-time and location-based weather data, which helps prevent accidents in hazardous conditions.

Further, edge computing can monitor the key battery parameters and sensor data of electric vehicles in real time. Besides, the edge device can aggregate the data from nearby vehicles and notify about the situation at the intersection well in advance, thus increasing the efficiency and throughput at complex road intersections.

Healthcare

Edge computing technology has made tele-health and remote patient monitoring more accessible than ever. With the help of internet of medical things (IoMT)-connected devices, medical professionals can remotely monitor their patients at hospitals and care facilities. As a result, healthcare providers can have access to critical information about their patients in real time rather than interfacing with slow and incomplete databases.

While the use of robotics in surgery is not new, IoMT and edge technology combined with AI can expand how these tools are used. In 2019, a surgical team in China remotely inserted a stimulation device into a patient’s brain nearly 1,900 miles away. Further, in the US, Corindus has been testing simulated cardiovascular procedures with its CorPath GRX System, which uses multiple network types including 5G. In early 2020, Apple acquired AI start-up Xnor.ai, which specialises in low-power edge-based tools. Xnor.ai brings remote monitoring capabilities to wearables, such as added health features available on the Apple Watch.

In addition, edge computing and blockchain technology can help trace and verify pharmaceutical products along the supply chain. Chronicled is a blockchain-powered supply network designed for the pharmaceutical industry. Its MediLedger Network offers secured contracts and communication as well as built-in security verification for each stage of the supply chain.

That apart, edge computing can make a significant impact on the delivery of healthcare services to inaccessible rural areas. With edge computing, devices can gather, store and deliver information in real time, and even use their processing capabilities to recommend treatment.

Others

Media and entertainment

Content delivery networks were some of the first uses of edge computing. Coupled with 4G/5G networks, edge servers provide mobile users a smooth video streaming experience, without any buffering. Media companies can leverage edge capacity to collect and analyse customer data to sell more services and products.

Financial services

With the help of autonomous edge management, financial service companies can now effectively handle distributed computing at the scale, variability and speed required to cater to multiple servers and devices across locations. The video feed can be analysed in real time with integrated edge computing and AI image recognition software on the ATM machine itself.

Smart cities

Smart cities leverage data intelligence to make informed decisions and develop programs to improve their infrastructure. Traditional IoT networks collect and analyse data before sending it to a central cloud computer, where it can be processed and used, while edge computing allows on-device computing and analytics.

Going forward

According to IDC, more than 50 per cent of new enterprise IT infrastructure will be deployed at the edge by 2023 rather than at corporate data centres, up from less than 10 per cent at present. Further, the number of apps at the edge is expected to increase by 800 per cent.

Going forward, businesses, large and small, across sectors are looking to gain momentum by adopting edge computing. Edge computing, along with 5G roll-outs and the maturation of Wi-Fi 6 and IoT, will accelerate Industry 4.0 measures.