By Shambhu Nath Jha, senior research consultant with Fact.MR
In recent years, edge-computing technology has witnessed stiff competition and rapid growth. The COVID-19 pandemic has spotlighted the importance of the edge, as more and more companies move towards digitization. As a result, edge servers are increasingly being deployed by Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS) in local markets.
The geopolitics surrounding COVID-19 will have an enormous impact on the edge-computing market; for the next two years, the market will exhibit stellar growth on the back of 5G and s IoT technology.
This pandemic will act as an accelerator for edge-computing market growth. Increasing numbers of established and emerging players are integrating intelligence and automation into their businesses. The current viral outbreak has compelled businesses to rethink and reevaluate their day-to-day processes. As COVID-19 has forced governments to impose lockdowns across the globe, consumers have garnered greater appreciation for their digital lifestyle. This, in turn, will be a crucial growth lever for the edge-computing market in the foreseeable future. Edge- computing technology will be an effective tool to prevent socioeconomic devastation in the event of potential outbreaks.
Post-pandemic demand for edge technology
Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, the edge-computing market was receiving tailwinds from technologies such as 5G, AI, open-network infrastructures and the IoT. As numerous household devices were equipped with IoT, the transmission and storage of data within a limited bandwidth became a critical challenge. Hence, leading manufacturers such as Microsoft, Google, and Amazon came up with edge-computing technology that would allow data processing at the edge, i.e. the site of production and consumption. For this purpose, a local edge server, edge gateway or a device equipped with AI is utilized. It saves huge bandwidth costs and enhances the data-processing speed manifold.
Cost savings and speed
One of the biggest advantages of edge computing is the substantial reduction in costs associated with cloud computing. Several companies integrated their business processes with cloud many years ago only to discover that they had to incur significant bandwidth costs as a result. This led to a shift from cloud to edge-computing architectures, which is gaining pace over the years. Another major advantage of edge computing is faster processing of large amounts of data that otherwise caused latency in cloud-computing architectures. Many companies require real-time applications that augment the demand for edge -computing technology.
For instance, smartphones offering facial recognition have to run the algorithm through cloud-based services...a time-consuming process. With the advent of edge-computing technology, the smartphone can utilize a gateway or local edge server to run the algorithm. Further, variegated applications such as smart cities, self-driven cars, video conferencing, augmented/virtual reality require faster response, which is feasible via edge-computing technology. Prominent players are focused on enhancing the interconnectivity of consumer products, which is a significant growth driver of the edge-computing market as well.
What’s the role of 5G?
As IT companies across the globe have instructed their employees to work from home due to COVID-19, they continue to face major issues with network connectivity, response time and downtimes. Companies are recognizing the importance of remote-working technology, which might become the norm, depending on how long the pandemic persists. Established players such as Microsoft are working toward addressing this problem by combining edge-computing and 5G technology. The network infrastructure would consist of edge-based computing devices, cloud-native software applications and with 5G wireless services.
Other industry giants such as Amazon are developing AI-enabled chips to be installed in these edge-based computing devices. Through these AI chips, they can decide how much data should be transmitted based on the level of importance. The combination of 5G, AI and edge computing would considerably reduce the network latency down to a few milliseconds or even less. Consequently, a single application offered by tech giants such as Microsoft and Amazon will integrate all major technological developments of the past decade.
Edge AI: The vision of leading tech giants
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to millions of people losing their jobs across the globe, predominantly in the United States where scores of people have applied for unemployment benefits. In such times, where people have job-security concerns, edge AI is offering them new career prospects.
For people in the healthcare and manufacturing domain, the penetration of edge AI will prove to be a boon for both job security. Many countries such as China are already deploying drones and robots in the healthcare domain, specifically for public safety. Real-time and accurate insights offered by edge AI helps with effective identification, isolation, and treatment of COVID-19 patients.
Prominent tech giants such as Intel are constantly working in this area; Intel recently announced a joint collaboration with Udacity which would allow the developer community to work on Intel's Edge AI technology along with Udacity's IoT technology.
The safety and bandwidth latency of IoT products are mighty challenges being faced by leading manufacturers, which can be solved using edge-computing technology. Hence, such collaborations among leaders will be vital for the edge-computing market in this decade.
A version of this article ran here.