Why 5G is bringing edge computing and automation front and center


The Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang are underway and all eyes are on the competitors. They are also on the digital infrastructure and technology allowing billions around the world to view world record-breaking moments in real-time. The 2018 Games represent the world’s first deployment of a broad-scale 5G network, thanks to a partnership between domestic telecom provider KT, Intel and Samsung. The new capabilities have been on the horizon for some time. We saw 5G steal the show a year ago at Mobile World Congress, and Verizon and AT&T have each announced plans to offer 5G networks before the end of 2018. So, what does the emergence of 5G networks mean for enterprises?

5G will make edge computing a necessity

As with its predecessor 4G, 5G was developed in a direct response to the growing number of mobile devices seeking an internet connection; however, this time around we are no longer talking about connected phones or tablets. The rise of 5G coincides with the explosion of connected devices and systems associated with the Internet of Things (IoT). Smart heating systems, wearables and vehicles all bring with them large amounts of data. In addition to more processing power, 5G promises speeds 10 times faster than those of 4G, meaning a sensor detecting a significant pressure change in an oil field can report back to refinery instantly and eliminate the risk of costly downtime. Processing these high volumes of data, at a faster speed, will require new antennas, new devices, and new applications for wireless data. No matter what the setup looks like, the influx of additional data – which will need to be processed in real-time – will drive the need for edge computing.

Recognized by many as the next significant enterprise tech trend after cloud computing, edge computing refers to infrastructure that enables data processing as close to the source as possible. It allows for faster processing of data, reducing latency and improving customer experiences. For some industries, the need for rapid processing extends beyond customer satisfaction. In the case of medical wearables, for instance, a lag in data processing could create a life or death emergency. This type of computing will require closer data centers as well. In fact, IDC predicts that internet providers will add micro-data centers into or nearby 5G towers as a means of creating this access.

Automation beyond geography takes off

Optimized network speed from the adoption of 5G will result in even higher user expectations when it comes to low latency and always-on connectivity. When 5G powers millions of devices at home, around the community and in workspaces, decisions will need to be made in fractions of a second to as to where to send a device’s traffic to maintain uptime and provide a superior user experience. At the same time, the capacity of these machines to interact and share data will create additional traffic burdens.

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