Edge computing is a distributed computing architecture in which hardware and software support data computation and storage at the physical edge of a network, as close to the end user as possible.
Edge computing enhances network performance by transmitting data at the shortest distance between the sensor or end user and the cloud or data center. In essence, it brings the cloud or data center as close to the user or device as possible, thereby reducing response time.
Because of the ubiquity of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, edge computing cases are numerous and far reaching.
Read more about how edge computing is changing up the data management landscape: Micro Data Centers are Evolving the Edge
Edge Computing Use Cases
Edge computing is relevant in several contexts, including the healthcare, manufacturing, and retail sectors among others.
Edge computing in agriculture
Indoor agricultural facilities transmit and receive data from sensors to grow crops. The sensors need edge computing to make intelligent decisions about crop irrigation, nutrient density, and optimal harvesting times.
Edge computing in healthcare
Edge computing is finding applications in the healthcare sector in terms of tracking patients’ vital information in real time and keeping patient data up-to-date and secure.
Edge computing brings data processing, analytics, and storage closer to a hospital’s on-premises server or a device at the patient’s home. Physicians can be alerted to unusual patterns or changes in patient data and take immediate, potentially life-saving action if needed.
For instance, HCA Healthcare partnered with Red Hat to develop a real-time sepsis diagnostics solution using edge computing. This solution helped HCA Healthcare reduce the length of time to diagnose sepsis, a life-threatening response to infection, to one day or less.
Patients’ wearable devices are a basic example of an edge solution, as they generate and receive data wherever the user happens to be. A heart rate monitor, for instance, locally analyzes data on the patient’s heart rate, blood pressure, and sleep patterns, keeping doctors updated with real-time patient information.
Edge computing in entertainment
Edge computing comes into play for really any app but especially for streaming services, such as Hulu or Netflix.
Edge computing optimizes content delivery networks (CDNs) by identifying the best, low-latency network path for a user’s internet traffic and ensuring a broadly distributed global cache or data repository for servers. This is especially important in the evening of any given location when most people are home from work and watching their favorite shows.
An optimized network also helps marketers curate more personalized and interactive customer experiences, such as sophisticated chatbots, recommendations, and even offline interactions.
Internet providers that support users’ work and recreational needs require performance analytics from edge computing to ensure reliable, fast internet.
Edge computing in manufacturing
A manufacturing company with plants located around the world benefits from edge computing, as its leadership can make quicker, more accurate business decisions regarding optimal operations.
The data that management uses to make those decisions doesn’t have to come from one centralized cloud. Instead, it can be collected and transmitted close to the server of any given facility location.
Edge computing also especially comes into play to ensure employee working conditions are safe. If a machine suddenly turns off automatically due to an object obstruction, such as a hand or shirt sleeve, this is an incident that management will want to know about. Sensors or cameras on that piece of machinery can collect and transmit live data on the edge.
Bringing data processing closer to manufacturing equipment through IoT devices and sensors enables management to better monitor production lines and employee safety as well as anticipate necessary maintenance.
Edge computing in retail
For retail businesses, especially those that conduct e-commerce, edge computing becomes especially important for collecting and transmitting data between retailers and customers.
For online orders, for instance, edge computing enables quick and accurate order processing and fulfillment between mobile or web orders and distribution centers that are closest to shoppers.
Edge computing is also behind the magic of selecting a specific store location to check an item’s availability. In addition, it helps retail businesses make more accurate sales forecasts to better prepare for seasonal fluctuations in business.
Edge computing in the energy sector
The oil and energy industry has relied on collecting and sending data to a distant data center. This prevented timely redress of issues related to oil pipeline pressure or electrical conductivity, due to the lag time between a critical incident and its rectification.
Edge computing has accelerated the identification and resolution of technical or security issues that arise in the energy sector because it delivers real-time information from IoT sensors in drilling facilities or power plants.
More generally, edge computing helps organizations with multiple physical locations improve their energy consumption management. IoT devices and sensors linked to an edge platform help users:
- Track energy usage.
- Conduct real-time analysis of consumption.
- Adjust or reduce heating, cooling, and lighting, according to times of day in various locations.
Edge computing in telecommunications
Edge computing has much wider reach than Wi-Fi, allowing broader and more scalable connectivity. That’s why edge computing is being deployed in 5G mobile communication networks to deliver fast app experiences and cache content for local users. This essentially allows user traffic to bypass one infrastructural backbone.
Though broader implementation of public 5G networks are nascent, edge computing is contributing to the current rise in private cellular networks (PCNs). Telecommunication companies and other enterprises are heavily investing in 5G networking to connect IoT devices to edge computing facilities. In fact, the 5G market is predicted to experience a CAGR of 72% and reach a value of almost $250 billion USD by the year 2028.
In recent news, Deutsche Telekom partnered with Google Cloud to bring cloud services closer to Deutsche Telekom’s edge, pilot 5G service in Austria, and kick off other joint projects.
Edge computing in transportation
Self-driving vehicles or really any mode of transportation that operates with geolocation data use edge computing.
An autonomous vehicle, for example, constantly gathers and transmits information about weather, traffic, and road conditions as well as several other data points. Such a vehicle requires a lot of computational power to send, receive, collect, and analyze information as the vehicle moves in order to make the right decisions.
Edge computing ensures optimal end-user experience for transportation mobile apps, such as Uber or Lyft. Drivers’ vehicles are outfitted with geolocation devices that transmit data live to the app, so it can select the quickest ride for end users. Plus, end users can track the location of their ride.
Vehicles, whether self-driving or otherwise, need constant connectivity. Edge computing enables fast communication with low latency between these vehicles and data centers.
Benefits of Edge Computing
Edge computing benefits businesses in several ways:
- Expanded product and service offering and reach.
- Better and more varied avenues to serve customers.
- Vast data storage capability.
- Compliance through data sovereignty and security.
- Improved security, as data is distributed throughout the network instead of in one central location, or only the most sensitive data gets sent to the cloud.
- Sharper, real-time monitoring.
- Reduced cost of raw data transmission, especially in areas with high mobile data fees.
- Enhanced network performance.
- Reduced network loads by processing on the edge.
- Greater bandwidth capacity across bigger geographic area, leading to lower bandwidth use in any given edge location.
- More reliability, fewer network disruptions.
- Faster data processing.
- Higher end-user satisfaction.
Read more about tips to keep the edge secure: Best Practices for Securing Edge Networks
Edge Computing is Here to Stay
Edge computing is on its way to great adoption. And while it’s becoming increasingly popular, this does not spell the end of cloud services. Cloud and edge computing are allies in delivering scalable yet efficient connectivity and secure data transmission and storage to businesses.
Read more about edge computing and other data center trends: Data Center Technology Trends for 2022
Gartner estimates that the global enterprise edge computing market will grow to $19 billion in 2024 with a CAGR of nearly 14%. Gartner also predicts that by 2025, 75% of enterprise-generated data will be processed outside the traditional centralized cloud and data center.
The boom in edge computing adoption and use is attributed to parallel growth in IoT edge devices. Edge computing keeps device and network performance at their peak and helps organizations save money on expensive cloud computing. However, edge and cloud computing will continue to pair well together. While the cloud enables large-scale computing, the edge offloads localized tasks to use fewer resources.
Read next: Top 6 Edge Computing Companies 2022