Edge computing technology has emerged as a promising alternative to traditional cloud computing. As telcos stand at the cusp of 5G roll-out, it is time for them to own the edge and reimagine edge network architecture. Further, edge computing is opening up a new world of revenue opportunities across manufacturing, transport, gaming and more. The use of edge computing in the enterprise domain is dramatically expanding, as companies and consumers connect more devices to the internet.
A look at some of the use cases of edge computing for enterprises across segments:
Manufacturing and industrial processes
Industrial internet of things has added millions of connected devices in manufacturing plants and other such industries in order to gather data on production lines, equipment performance and finished products. Sometimes, moving data to centralised servers, whether in the cloud or on premises, could be prohibitively expensive or impossible because of a facility’s remote location. In such cases, edge computing brings the necessary processing power, and these edge devices can be programmed to either transfer aggregate data back to the central systems and/or initiate the required actions at the endpoint. Moreover, edge computing delivers the speed required for manufacturing and industrial operations, where automated assembly lines move rapidly and require real-time interventions to address problems.
Civic authorities are using edge computing to create smart communities and enhance their roadways with capabilities such as intelligent traffic controls. Edge supports a host of areas within this broad category. It helps civic authorities such as traffic agencies, public transformation departments and private transportation companies better manage their vehicle fleets and the overall traffic flow, as edge computing enables rapid adjustments based on real-time and on-the-ground conditions. Additionally, civic authorities such as city workers and regional planners can deploy edge devices to process data coming from sensors on power grids, public infrastructure, public facilities, private buildings and other locations, allowing them to instantly assess needs and respond quickly.
Retail stores are increasingly using interactive digital media to encourage customers. To this end, edge computing can be used to run certain applications that need real-time human interaction, such as mixed reality mirrors in changing rooms, while also enabling retailers to innovate on, test and change applications. Furthermore, an edge compute solution is more scalable than traditional on-premise solutions, and running such applications on a device would be relatively constrained in terms of compute capacity. Edge compute also enables retailers to innovate and change their applications easily. Moreover, the edge architecture enables retailers to maximise space, particularly if space is limited and rent is expensive.
Edge computing offers a new, cost-effective solution for healthcare informatics. Instead of sending data to the cloud, processing is completed at the place where data is generated, be it in devices or networks at the clinic, hospital or even directly on patients’ devices outside of clinical settings. As a result, care providers can diagnose and begin treating conditions faster, thereby improving patient outcomes. In addition, the edge could support advanced remote-patient monitoring by processing data from medical devices such as glucose monitors and blood pressure cuffs and then alerting clinicians to problematic readings. It could also enable real-time management of medical equipment as the various pieces move through hospital facilities. Moreover, edge technology can play a critical role in medical care delivery, such as robot-assisted surgery, where real-time data analysis is essential.
With edge architecture in place, farmers using precision agriculture technology can track the factors responsible for crop growth such as temperature, humidity, soil moisture levels, nutrient levels and other metrics. This could be crucial in guiding decision-making regarding watering, fertiliser application and other activities. While edge computing is useful across vast acres of farm fields, it is also a boon in greenhouses and hydroponic growing facilities, where sensors enable operators to track inputs precisely. Additionally, aquaculture (fish farming) is another industry where edge computing can play a vital role, as it requires on-site data processing. Precise monitoring of complex environmental variables is essential in ensuring the health of fish, as well as proper feeding and automation. Edge computing takes the guesswork out of these processes, improving vitality and growth while reducing costs.
Security and worker safety
Through the use of edge computing, data from on-site cameras, employee safety devices and sensors can be utilised to help businesses prevent unauthorised physical access to a site, as well as oversee workplace conditions to ensure employees are following established safety policies. This is especially important for workplaces that operate in hazardous or remote locations, such as a construction site or an oil platform at sea. Further, edge computing devices can be used in conjunction with video monitoring and biometric scanning to ensure that only authorised individuals enter restricted areas. Meanwhile, surveillance systems can benefit from the low latency and reliability of edge computing, because it is often necessary to respond to security threats within seconds.
Similar to other use cases, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) both require the real-time processing of large data sets, because any lag in analysis would delay subsequent actions. This would mean delayed images and instructions in the case of VR and AR, creating a poor (and, in some cases, even unsafe) user experience at a time when use of these technologies is greatly expanding. While workers use these technologies to guide them through their tasks and to learn new processes, other individuals use them for entertainment and skill enhancement. Businesses may also apply edge computing technology to enable unique and customised AR/VR experiences, such as personalised shopping displays.
Autonomous vehicles and traffic management
Autonomous vehicles are a prime edge computing use case, as they can only operate safely and reliably when they’re able to analyse all the data required to drive in real time. Autonomous vehicles can be connected to the edge in order to improve safesty, enhance efficiency, reduce accidents and decrease traffic congestion. Meanwhile, edge computing can enable more effective city traffic management – for example, optimising bus frequency according to fluctuations in demand, managing the opening and closing of extra lanes, and, in future, managing autonomous car flows. With edge computing, the need to transport large volumes of traffic data to the centralised cloud is done away with, thereby reducing the cost of bandwidth and latency.
Edge computing solutions have been very popular in industries where the malfunctioning of high-value assets can lead to massive losses. The speed of edge computing makes it possible for businesses to deliver reports in seconds. Examples of working enterprise computing for predictive maintenance can be seen in the oil and gas industry, where edge computing helps with proactively managing pipelines, identifying defects and preventing failures.
Edge computing will become a core technology in the power sector with the widespread adoption of smart grids. It can help enterprises better manage their energy consumption. Sensors and internet of things devices connected to edge platforms are already being used in factories, plants and offices to monitor energy use and analyse consumption in real-time. With real-time visibility, enterprises and energy companies will be able to strike new deals, especially in cases where high-powered machinery is run during off-peak electricity demand hours. This can increase the amount of green energy an enterprise consumes.
The bottom line
Edge computing is all about processing data closer to where it is being generated, thereby enabling processing at greater speeds and volumes, leading to better action-led results in real time. According to Precedence Research, the global edge computing market size is projected to surpass around $116.5 billion by 2030, at a compound annual growth rate of 12.46 per cent during 2022-2030. The advent of 5G has made edge computing even more compelling, enabling significantly improved network capacity, lower latency, higher speeds and increased efficiency.
Net net, edge computing seems to be a good bet and can prove to be a boon for enterprises given its versatile uses cases across segments. Edge computing also helps businesses unlock the potential of the vast, untapped reserves of data created by connected devices. This can help uncover new business opportunities, increase operational efficiency and provide faster and more reliable and consistent experiences for customers.