As the world moves towards ubiquitous connectivity, having a well-defined edge computing architecture is becoming imperative for countries. With applications spanning across multiple usage models in almost every industry segment, high-performance edge computing is rapidly becoming an essential element to power digital transformation. According to Gartner, companies will generate and process more than 75% of their data outside a traditional datacenter by 2025, globally.

For India, unlocking the full potential of digital technologies is faced with many roadblocks predominantly due to the current network infrastructure. In terms of fixed-line broadband penetration, India falls behind 133 countries, from a global perspective. While 4G services have been available in the country for quite a few years, the fiber backhaul doesn’t match up to that of most mature countries when it comes to coverage and depth, especially in small cities and rural areas. By and large, the country’s connectivity infrastructure remained centered around tier-I cities for a long time. The needs of tier-II/III cities were overlooked by major ISPs in India primarily due to low returns against high investments.

Although the current telecom evolution has made major players rely on the ongoing fiber infrastructure deployment, key concerns like access to quality, region-specific content, wide-spread trust issues for financial transactions and sub-structural challenges make it a complex task.

Edge computing architecture and applications

Having high-performing edge computing can translate to a gamut of new usage practices. According to McKinsey, edge computing represents a potential value of $175-215 billion in hardware by 2025. Providing near-source cloud capabilities with significantly reduced network latency, and integration with new-age technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT) and advanced analytics, the technology offers a pervasive experience across end devices. Organisations, on the other hand, can achieve their business objectives assimilating enhanced productivity, efficiency, and speed building upon real-time marketing and personalised customer experience.

For instance, for industries like OTT media services, this means they can position source video streams closer to the viewers resulting in top quality and ultra-low latency live video streams with a reduction in transit costs. Also, with the increasing cloud gaming traffic and virtual reality coming into the picture, deploying edge computing servers will be imperative to handling middle-mile bottlenecks.

Video surveillance and analytics are already being deployed at the edge enabling real-time decision-making based on data insights. The automotive industry is also investing in edge computing technology as ensuring safety with driverless cars requires these vehicles to analyse data from their surroundings and simultaneously communicate with other vehicles.

Developing economies are moving towards building smart cities, smart offices, and smart factories. Taking instantaneous decisions will be crucial for these solutions. Transferring humungous amounts of data generated by entire cities to distant data centers for analysis will not only be burdensome but also impractical. For smart factories, remote monitoring, faster adjustments, and predictive maintenance is vital. A distributed computing paradigm such as edge computing will be the key for smart and autonomous infrastructures to work effectively.

One of the most powerful advantages of edge computing is its capability to execute real-time artificial intelligence. As retail continues to penetrate India’s tier-II and tier-III cities and the supply chain becomes increasingly organised, edge computing integrated with intelligence will significantly impact marketing, monitoring and distribution of products in the retail space. This will bring along the untapped potential of markets from small cities and towns of India, generating opportunity for the economy to flourish.

5G: Reimagining the network for India

In the coming years, laying out infrastructure for successful 5G connectivity will be of primary importance. A positive step in this direction is the government’s aim to increase its fiber footprint to fivefold or 7.5 million kms by 2022, with the intention to accelerate the migration towards 5G.

Edge computing will not only be a radical upgrade to speed and quality but will also empower a new era of machine to machine connectivity ranging from smart heating systems, wearables to vehicles. 5G’s network framework depends heavily on cloud computing and virtualisation, therefore, with millions of connected devices, instant decisions in terms of transfer of traffic and continuously interacting data will need to be made.

In such a scenario, a robust high-performance edge computing architecture will be the key technology to process the additional influx of data and facilitate the transformation of 5G, the bridge to India’s vision on achieving last-mile connectivity.

Views are personal.

The author is vice president and managing director, sales and marketing group, Intel India

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