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What is edge computing

and where is it

being used?

Author: Mark Stone

Edge computing is no longer just about what's next—it's what's happening now. But what is edge computing?

It accelerates digital transformation by placing computing resources at the network edge and revolutionizing the way data is processed. With edge computing, businesses can expand their offerings by pushing beyond the limitations of yesterday's networks to provide faster and higher-quality digital experiences.

However, hurdles still exist along with the benefits. How are these challenges being addressed today, and what does that mean for the future of edge computing?

What is edge computing?

With remote work becoming the new norm, the pressure to automate, streamline and speed up connectivity has never been higher. Businesses need to find solutions to empower their employees and optimize operations globally. At the same time, increased Internet of Things (IoT) devices put pressure on public clouds, increasing the ever-complex management overhead to effectively secure and optimize operations.

Edge computing allows for data processing to happen at a network's edge and close to the data's source. It's a shift from data traveling to a server possibly across the globe—and instead, keeps the processing near the source. With edge computing, information is immediately captured by the edge computing infrastructure and returned to the end users in near-real time.

Edge computing vs. cloud computing

While it can be said that edge computing is the evolution of cloud computing, it's not a replacement. Cloud and edge computing are complementary, rather than competitive or mutually exclusive.

Cloud computing is the delivery of data over the internet—centralizing servers, storage and intelligence on a mass scale. The most notable benefits of this are cost savings, increased ability to collaborate remotely, secure file sharing and more efficient operations. Thanks to the cloud, mobile applications, smart technology and IoT devices were made possible. Their functionality, however, is limited by bandwidth demands.

Enter edge computing, which takes what cloud computing started and levels it up by improving the performance and efficiency of delivering data. Whether that data is on a mobile device, AR-powered gaming, a smart home speaker or IoT industrial machinery, processing data at the network's edge reduces latency.

Where is edge computing used?

In the mobile market's push for 5G networks, edge computing can be helpful. Compared to 4G, 5G can process data multiple times faster with minimal latency. This allows any edge computing applications to benefit from extremely low-latency—improving performance and minimizing wait time.

Edge computing will likely see opportunities for application in a broad range of areas. Consider the medical community—trials are already underway to use 5G and mobile edge computing (MEC), coupled with artificial intelligence (AI), to locate polyps that the human eye would normally miss. This preemptive procedure relies on the ultra-low latency characteristics of 5G and MEC with the power of AI to identify such anomalies. In this example, existing medical procedures can be enhanced to help save lives.

Internet of Things (IoT)

The world today is hyper-connected due to the proliferation of devices powered by the internet. Everything from security systems to home appliances and inventory trackers uses the internet to function. Edge computing was also developed to meet the huge demand for IoT devices.

Interconnectivity is key. Think about a smart home: If all your devices are connected to the internet, you control and connect all your life's elements to make day-to-day living more streamlined.

Industrial and manufacturing applications

Industry and manufacturing businesses are already seeing the benefits of IoT devices. But with edge computing, they can potentially achieve much more. The interconnectivity means faster building and more accurate inventory management, and should translate into profit.

Industrial applications—any device or machinery used during the building or manufacturing products—are drivers for edge computing. Predictive maintenance for manufacturing machinery requires near-real-time accuracy. With a growing number of commoditized products today, delivering data faster should be a key differentiator.

AR, VR and cloud gaming

The gaming industry is expected to see significant advancements from edge computing. 5G Edge has made cloud gaming possible because applications are close to the end-user. The mobile network is also optimized to reduce latency as much as possible to the edge nodes. AR and virtual reality (VR) require ultra-low latency and high capacity, but could now become a reality due to edge deployments. The potential that 5G and edge computing brings to the user experience is impressive.

On a new wavelength

Earlier this year, Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced its newest edge service AWS Wavelength, explicitly designed for latency-sensitive applications served over 5G networks.

Verizon has partnered with AWS to create Verizon 5G Edge, a mobile edge computing platform that brings together Verizon's 5G Ultra Wideband network with AWS cloud services. Now commercially launched at sites in Boston and the San Francisco Bay Area, this platform can enable developers and enterprise customers to develop large-scale, latency-sensitive applications at the edge.

Learn more about Verizon's mobile edge computing platform and how it can be used to revolutionize your business.