5G, the IoT and Edge Computing have generated a lot of buzz over the past few years, and for a good reason. 5G is expected to handle 1000 times more traffic than 4G and could be up to 10 times faster. It promises to provide the capabilities and performance we expect from a wireline network and more. This next generation, all-mobile network has the potential to improve our lives and the global economy, and even create a sustainable planet.
5G field trials, testbeds and digital experiments are underway. Telecom carriers, operators and their vendors are working closely to design and implement this new, open cellular network architecture that will lay the foundation for 5G and beyond and define a new digital age. 5G’s ultrafast network will introduce a vast array of new applications that will satisfy our society’s growing appetite for more, faster, and smarter data.
Edge Computing is not entirely new. Some of the capabilities have been around for many years in various form factors focused on network elements for data and control plane solutions, but its value has been magnified with the advent of key services revenues, such as IoT and the delivery of 5G. Edge Computing orchestrates 5G’s massive bandwidth capability and drastically lowers latency by processing data closer to where the intelligence is required - where real-time decisions can and should be made. It’s also more secure by simple proximity to the data (less internet travel means less exposure to risk). All the data processing, storage, analytics and communication can be done at the network edge rather than distant data centers and clouds (where almost all data is currently sent and processed). Important data can now be processed in near real-time at the edge and immediate decisions can be made.
Like 5G, Edge Computing will introduce a plethora of new applications, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning, augmented and virtual reality, predictive and real-time analytics, ultra high-definition (UHD) video, blockchain and cyber security. These applications will produce massive amounts of data that must be processed and acted upon in near real-time, when even a fraction of a millisecond is intolerable. Business-critical, lifesaving decisions will be made on the edge. The intelligent edge has given birth to rapid automation, which will profoundly improve our daily work and lives.
Examples of industries benefitting from Edge Computing include: agriculture, telemedicine, manufacturing, financial services, transportation/vehicles, public safety and disaster relief. Telemedicine, in particular, has an acute need for Edge Computing’s low latency intelligence, equipping physicians and doctors with critical data in the operating room or allowing for remote surgeries and patient or equipment alerting and monitoring, virtual doctor visits, etc. - where minimal delays in processing is required.
Edge Computing has the processing power to support the mounting number of IoT-connected devices. Imagine how many intelligent sensors must be distributed in and around a city to create autonomous transportation, for example.
Forbes predicts that by 2025 more than 80 billion devices, from wearables to smart meters, to factory and smart city sensors - will be connected to the Internet, generating around 180 trillion gigabytes that year. Experts predict tens of billions of 5G devices will be deployed over the next decade. IDC predicts that the data created, captured and replicated worldwide will be 175 zettabytes by 2025 and 30 percent of that data will be processed in real time.
By 2020, it’s estimated that for every one person on this planet, a staggering 1.7 MB of data will be created every second, and this is just the beginning.
Director, Product Strategy & Business Development,
According to IEEE, 5G is anticipated to hit critical mass in 2025. Telecom carriers, operators and their well-chosen vendors are poised to lead us into this next digital age - the Fourth Industrial Revolution. However, it will take time, requiring careful forward-thinking planning and coordination across new, evolving and varying open hardware and software ecosystems.
#1: Interoperability will continue to have a strong voice in 2019
And for several critical reasons. For example, 5G must support every class of traffic and every imaginable connected device, from autonomous transportation and air-to-sea drones to building, farm and factory automation, to telemetry and implantable medical devices. 5G is being designed and implemented to support open standard hardware and software - the ideal network architecture to support the rapid development and deployment of new applications. Interoperability among applications, the various networks they travel, the hardware and software they touch and the standards they’re built upon, must all work seamlessly together in an open ecosystem. Standards from open architecture leaders (i.e., CORD, ITU, IEEE, NIST, MEF, NIST, OpenFog Consortium, OCP, ONAP, ONF) will continue to evolve and new technologies must co-exist with legacy systems.
#2: New applications with Artificial Intelligence at the Edge will be discovered
These applications will impact all digital consumers and all industries. For example, operators can deliver VR/AR for visual application testing and development, virtual assistants, smart factories, cities and utilities, private and public transportation for smaller, agile people movers, improved accessibility and communications for the disabled, better security, data management and operators - applications that require artificial intelligence at the Edge (machine learning, deep learning, predictive analytics). Until now, these types of applications were restricted to data scientists and research labs. Also, with a complete infrastructure of intelligent Edge compute capabilities riding on 5G’s massive bandwidth, the unconnected can become connected, allowing IoT to thrive.
#3: Next year will give birth to new business models that bring 'IT' and 'OT' together
Until recently, information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) have existed in two separate worlds, serving very distinct purposes. IT consists of computing systems for the processing and storage of data, while OT comprises the hardware and software running and monitoring production systems. Edge Computing is essential for the IoT through the convergence of IT with operational technology. The rise of the IoT - bringing together a global network of devices, sensors and systems - has removed the walls that existed between IT and OT. Essentially, IT and OT are becoming one in the same, with a common purpose. From an OT perspective, the ability to deliver real-time value and data can translate into new products and services. The power of connectivity available through IT systems means innovations can occur, such as value-added services accompanying physical products. The convergence of IT and OT will create an engine of innovation, giving birth to new types of products and services.
#4: Exponential growth will be seen in the number and variety of digital experiments
Digital experimentation is a low barrier-to-entry method to test hypothesis in real-world or simulated environments without making large initial investments or disrupting existing systems, operational processes or workforces - and it’s the only way to properly introduce new digitally disruptive applications and technologies. A study released by Cisco finds that, despite the forward momentum for IoT, 60 percent of IoT initiatives stall at the proof of concept stage and only 26 percent of companies have had an IoT initiative that they considered a complete success. Without experimentation, speed of innovation is constrained. Technologies, such as online A/B testing, rapid prototyping and computer simulation, enable digital experiments to be conducted rapidly and cost-effectively. Digital experiments will supercharge IoT innovation, making this process faster and more affordable.
Next year will not be the year of 5G rollouts, not even small ones. Even the nominal pockets of field trials currently underway aren’t really deployments since the hardware and software doesn’t technically exist. 5G must first move beyond proof of concepts to pilots with business cases built to identify just how beneficial each new application and technology will be before moving to the deployment phase.
For telecom operators, carriers and their vendors, the magnitude of both the challenges and benefits are evident. However, to prosper, 5G, the IoT and Edge Computing must first be properly tested in controlled environments across various systems, applications and devices before successful deployments of new and life-changing applications can happen. After all, global networks are being completely re-architected, business models are changing and exciting new applications are being developed on the promise of the next digital era - the Fourth Industrial Revolution.