In this customer-centric digital economy, providing customers with the ability to view and process meaningful data at the fastest speed possible could be a competitive advantage for businesses. Gone are the days when excellent in-store experiences achieved customer loyalty. Today, customers want fast and real-time Digital Customer experiences to stay interested. Optimized network bandwidth and fast data processing are critical enablers of a good Digital Customer experience. While Cloud computing has been a game-changer in making data available over the internet, Edge computing has taken this to the next level. With Edge computing, data can be processed right where it is created on smart devices like mobile phones or local networks, enabling faster response times.
The IDC data age report illustrates that by 2025, the graph of everything will create 175 trillion gigabytes of data worldwide. Edge devices will create ninety zettabytes of that data.
Edge computing is a distributed computing model that brings computation and data storage closer to the location where it is needed. Over the past few decades, Edge computing has gone through several phases of evolution. It started with web and video content delivery, and now, it has become the extension of public cloud working in heterogeneous environments. With Edge computing, not all data gets sent to the central storage infrastructure or cloud. In a typical Edge architecture, the time-sensitive data is processed at the point of origin by an intelligent device or sent to a server located closest to the client. Less time-sensitive data is sent to the cloud for historical analysis, big data analytics, and long-term storage.
In this architecture, the Edge computing layer can sit anywhere between the local devices, the internet, and the cloud. There are six forms of Edge computing: Micro Edge that runs TinyML AI models, Mini Edge runs in disconnected, mobile, and remote environments such as trucks, vessels, air crafts, and windmills. Medium Edge is a cluster of inexpensive machines running at the Edge computing layer deployed in retail stores or restaurants. The Heavy Edge computing device is an all-in-one appliance that runs within a data center. With the Multi-Access Edge, the Edge infrastructure runs within a telecom provider’s facility co-located within a data center or even a cellular tower. The Cloud Edge enables the distribution of application components across multiple endpoints to reduce the roundtrip’s latency.
Humans create 2.5 Quintillion bytes of data every day. Sending all that data to centralized storage could cause latency in data exchanges over the internet. This latency could cause response delays in loading webpages affecting customers’ digital experience. A report by Math-metrics says that “14% of your audience will start shopping at another site if your page loads are slow, and 23% will simply stop the shopping experience or walk away from the computer.” Losing customers means losing revenue. Also, faster speed and ability to make real-time decisions are critical for the applications that use Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning. With Edge computing becoming a key technology in providing low latency speed, businesses must adopt it to stay competitive.
Amazon, Google, and Microsoft are developing their Edge computing services via strategic partnerships with infrastructure providers and Telecoms. Microsoft has partnered with AT&T to offer Azure End Zones that leverage the 5G network and offer Azure Stack Edge via subscriptions. AWS is partnering with Verizon to deliver AWS Wavelength. Amazon has started AWS Local Zones to support Edge data centers. AWS Snow and AWS Outposts are the infrastructure Edge offerings from Amazon. Google has partnered with AT&T to leverage the 5G network. Anthos at the Edge and Google Mobile Edge Cloud are the offerings from Google for applications and data center deployments.
Edge computing capabilities have increased the adoption of IoT in the healthcare industry. With Edge computing, hospitals and clinics can track medications, monitor patients, and manage staff and equipment efficiencies via mobile devices that collect patient information. Treatment recommendations and at-home care can also be provided via the same devices. The projected valuation of the global healthcare IoT market is $534 Billion by 2025.
With Edge computing, the retail industry is also using IoT devices to collect and publish synchronized data in real-time directly to customers’ mobile devices. Edge computing has enabled the analysis of customer buying trends, which helps with product marketing. IoT-driven backroom technology such as Radio-frequency identification (RFID), real-time point of sale (POS), and smart shelving systems improve inventory tracking accuracy throughout the supply chain. Better synchronized online, in-store, and mobile device experiences help with customer retention and attract new customers.
Edge computing enables equipment sensors and monitors to process data in real-time and build insights to make Quality control assessments on products. Dell Technologies‘ partner, IMS Evolve, leverages Edge computing to enable food quality and compliance for a UK based supermarket chain.
Autonomous vehicles and drones are common examples of Edge computing in automotive industries and transportation. Navigation, condition monitoring, logistics tracking, and fleet tracking are other areas where Edge computing helps with real-time analytics and data processing.
With data collected from consumers’ mobile devices, Edge enables real-time consumer behavior and offers personalized services and products. Edge computing can reduce dizziness associated with low latency and slow frame refresh rates of gaming applications. User data processing from the camera or user location can be performed on the Edge. Sony PlayStation and Nvidia are making good use of Edge computing for their game streaming services.
Enterprises need to innovate to avoid extinction. It is time to use the power of innovative emerging technologies in providing the best customer experience possible. Amazon, McDonalds, Alibaba, AT&T, BMW, Nike, and many other brands have already started investing and using emerging technologies for digital marketing. In the next decade, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, 5G, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning will become mainstream and will accelerate the evolution of Edge Computing. The next wave of technology innovation will be on the Edge.
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