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  • Writer's picturePeter Thomson

What is Edge Computing and why is it so important?

What is edge computing?

Edge computing is an emerging computing paradigm which refers to a range of networks and devices at or near the user. Edge is about processing data closer to where it’s being generated, enabling processing at greater speeds and volumes, leading to greater action-led results in real time.


It offers some unique advantages over traditional models, where computing power is centralized at an on-premise data center. Putting compute at the edge allows companies to improve how they manage and use physical assets and create new interactive, human experiences. Some examples of edge use cases include self-driving cars, autonomous robots, smart equipment data and automated retail.


Possible components of edge include:


Edge devices: We already use devices that do edge computing every day—like smart speakers, watches and phones – devices which are locally collecting and processing data while touching the physical world. Internet of Things (IoT) devices, point of sales (POS) systems, robots, vehicles and sensors can all be edge devices—if they compute locally and talk to the cloud.


Network edge: Edge computing doesn’t require a separate “edge network” to exist (it could be located on individual edge devices or a router, for example). When a separate network is involved, this is just another location in the continuum between users and the cloud and this is where 5G can come into play. 5G brings extremely powerful wireless connectivity to edge computing with low latency and high cellular speed, which brings exciting opportunities like autonomous drones, remote telesurgery, smart city projects and much more. The network edge can be particularly useful in cases where it is too costly and complicated to put compute on premises and yet high responsiveness is required (meaning the cloud is too distant).


On-premises infrastructure: These are for managing local systems and connecting to the network and could be servers, routers, containers, hubs or bridges.


Why is edge computing important?


Much of today’s computing already happens at the edge in places like hospitals, factories and retail locations, processing the most sensitive data and powering critical systems that must function reliably and safely. These places require solutions with low latency that do not need a network connection. What makes edge so exciting is the potential it has for transforming business across every industry and function, from customer engagement and marketing to production and back-office operations. In all cases, edge helps make business functions proactive and adaptive—often in real-time—leading to new, optimized experiences for people.


Edge allows businesses to bring the digital world into the physical. Bringing online data and algorithms into brick-and-mortar stores to improve retail experiences. Creating systems that workers can train and situations where workers can learn from machines. Designing smart environments that look out for our safety and comfort. What these examples all have in common is edge computing, which is enabling companies to run applications with the most critical reliability, real-time and data requirements directly on-site. Ultimately, this allows companies to innovate faster, stand up new products and services more quickly and opens up possibilities for the creation of new revenue streams.


What makes edge so exciting is the potential it has for transforming business across every industry and function, from customer engagement and marketing to production and back-office operations.


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