The growth of edge computing is not only creating opportunities for processing to take place closer to where data originates, but as more devices connect to the cloud via edge compute, it is also paving the way for further development of 5G, IoT and AI, thereby opening up virtually boundless possibilities in the future world of technology.
The Oncoming 5G Revolution
5G, the fifth generation of wireless technology, promises to not only dramatically increase speed, but also significantly enhance the coverage and responsiveness of wireless networks. 5G speeds will be anywhere from 10 to 100 times faster than the average cellular connection. 5G promises to have a low latency with lag times decreasing from around 20 milliseconds (with current networks) to as little as 1 millisecond.
Since Verizon said it would be the first big telecom company to deploy 5G tests around three years ago, hype around the technology and further development from other major telecom figures such as AT&T has been mounting. If it fulfils its promise, 5G (and edge computing along with it) will serve as a foundation to boost many areas of new technology and innovation, including the ascension of self-driving cars, VR, AI, and telemedicine.
How to Define the Edge
With 5G and edge computing, it is first necessary to define where the edge is located. Edge computing resources can be located on the operator or the user side of the last mile network. The infrastructure edge refers to the operator-side, and the device edge refers to operations on the user side. Indeed as we discussed in our recent article, “What and Where is the Edge”, there is no single edge to the Internet. Enterprise customers may define the edge differently than mobile network operators. While enterprise customers might define the edge as where the IoT device is installed or at the location of the end user, mobile networks typically define the edge more broadly as anything that isn’t in the data center.
Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC) is the term the European Telecommunications Standards Institute use to describe edge computing. MEC is starting to be deployed around the world within networks, beginning with the Radio Access Network (RAN).
Edge Computing is Paving the Way for 5G, IoT and AI
According to the Open Fog Consortium, a worldwide coalition of thought leaders in the edge/fog compute space, edge computing will help pave the way for 5G, IoT and AI.
Roger Billings, a Global Solutions Architect at Cradlepoint, outlines the reasons for this as:
- The provisioning of load balancing
- Supporting multiple levels of nodes for hierarchical networking
- Enabling the pooling of resources, universal orchestration & management
- Numerous access modes giving each edge network node the resource applications it needs
- Delivering improved reliability, security & resiliency
- Helping to support virtualization, mobile & IoT applications
- Offering agility with a horizontal platform & aiding all vertical markets
- Leading to a more scalable solution by migrating computation, networking, or storage capabilities across or through different levels of hierarchy
Edge Computing and 5G Enable IoT and AI
According to Gartner, 20.4 billion connected devices are expected to be in use by 2020, and the explosion of devices is already creating a strain on networks. On top of that, a recent article published by G2 Crowd notes that by 2021, the average U.S. consumer will interact with 601 internet connected devices every day. If this seems like a lot, that number is expected to reach 4,785 interactions by 2025 – an 800 percent increase! According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), 45% of the world’s data will be moved closer to the network edge by 2025 in order to cope with the sheer size of machine data.
5G was built to handle equipment for businesses that don’t need a constant connection and only periodically send data. With 5G network capabilities and edge computing improving latency, it is not only that IoT devices can be better accommodated in terms of processing data volume, but for many of these devices, latency is critical. With things like autonomous vehicles and medical equipment, absolute reliability is essential. 5G and edge computing will be the cornerstone for many IoT and AI devices.
Edge computing and 5G are essential infrastructure enablers for the growth of Industry 4.0, new business and tech developments centered around the IoT and AI.