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Getting the most out of your 5G and edge computing environments

September 18, 2020

Amit Sachdeva   

Amit Sachdeva, Global Head, Cloud and Application Service Provider Business

5G and edge computing technologies have the potential to help organisations deliver a wide range of exciting products and services. In this piece, Tata Communications’ Amit Sachdeva – Global Head, Cloud and Application Service Provider Business – explores the development of the technologies and their potential use cases.

Today cloud computing is the gold standard for agile computing environments. Over the past decade, the models have evolved so much that a combination of public and private clouds are able to cater to pretty much most enterprise requirements.

“In cases where the application and the data cannot be easily migrated to the cloud, edge computing is able to bring cloud resources ‘closer’ (and I do mean physically closer) to applications and their data.”

This is much needed for devices that use sensors to capture data which has to then be processed and analysed by compute resources (such as an AI), and finally commands have to be passed in real-time to devices/applications that will perform the required corrective actions.

As IoT devices and their algorithms become more powerful, they need to be equipped with larger processors and storage, and consequently higher power requirements. This is not always possible within the limitations posed by the form factor of the device, and hence designers need to leverage the cloud for better compute and storage.

“This means that data has to now travel from an IoT device to the cloud, get processed and then travel back to the IoT device. Unfortunately, this means that latency now prohibits the use of the IoT device where response times are measured in milliseconds. Consider the examples of autonomous cars or autonomous robots, where reaction times need to match those of fighter pilots!”

Some of the use cases of high speed, mission critical IoT applications include:

  • Voice and video recognition, where backhaul of audio/ video files to cloud is currently the only solution
  • A better form of a CDN (Content Delivery Network) which allows service providers to not only optimise the delivery of audio-video content, but also move processing (and storage) closer to the user
  • Augmented reality & network gaming, where low latency is the holy grail for customer experience
  • Industrial IoT devices and gateways that need high performance networks
  • Software Defined Networking, where local, low-cost computing nodes would perform the task of routing data, which would be especially useful for 5G connectivity
  • Autonomous vehicles with machine/self-learning capabilities wherein the edge node would be within the car itself, thus reducing its dependency on the cloud

The convergence and availability of 5G and edge computing should also usher in several new and interesting services that had not been possible earlier due to inadequate bandwidth for devices on the move, as well as portable devices that required high computing resources but that could not leverage cloud computing due to latency issues. Some such products and services that we can potentially look forward to in the near future are:

  • Seamless integration of Alexa and Google Assistant in to IoT and portable devices (such as in-cars infotainment systems)
  • VR headsets and wearables with inbuilt and networked game consoles (think an entire Xbox contained within a VR headset)
  • Integration of Facebook with AI-based IoT devices (we might see Facebook offering an AI based virtual assistant like Google, something that would integrate tightly with social media)
  • A faster Facebook with performances better than a CDN
  • Connected AIs for automation of industrial processes and devices, but in much smaller form factors
  • Robots that can leverage much higher computing capacities and AI capabilities over the Edge

“As Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) develop these new breeds of connected and technologically advanced products and solutions, seamless integration of these products with Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) will be must – opening new business avenues for the latter.”

Furthermore, network providers and digital ecosystem enablers can also leverage new business opportunities as they can fulfill the infrastructure requirements and provide better connectivity solutions to both CSPs and OEMs.

Discover more about how to reimagine the value chain with IoT in a post COVID-19 world.