November 8, 2019

Four Real-World Edge Computing Use Cases

Edge computing empowers CSPs to avoid the risk of bandwidth shortcomings and enable high-value and revenue-generating service offerings.

At the T2 Summit in September 2019, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg discussed his view of the first big revenue opportunities for 5G, which included private enterprise networks with edge computing capabilities on company campuses and in industrial settings. Here we look at why Vestberg and various other industry heavyweights are focusing on edge computing and what that will mean for both the B2B customer base and consumers.

Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) in a 5G network context involves moving latency-critical compute functions closer to the end user and may also involve running workloads on customer premises equipment. While this is possible with LTE, the millisecond latency services enabled by 5G (VR, AR, autonomous vehicles, drones etc.) will rely on edge computing to make sure the optimal latency is maintained for mission-critical applications. In the LTE paradigm, operators have to make a choice between running workloads on premise or on the device edge (which entails costs in battery life, mobility, availability and device design compromises), or running workloads in the public cloud, which has obvious latency compromises.

Edge computing empowers CSPs to avoid shortcomings with low latency across the network portion between the user and the compute function, and significantly lowered impact on considerations such as battery and device design. It also means better guarantees of higher quality services, which in turn can be priced accordingly based on that added value.

For MNOs, the appeal of using a MEC architecture is much broader than just solving latency challenges. Putting the compute at the network edge also allows operators to cache and process RAN and user data much closer to the source to cut down on the amount of traffic transmitted over the backhaul network. Lessening the strain on the backhaul can protect essential services from outages or dependency issues should there be a failure in the cloud server or data center. Additionally, MEC offers more flexibility for the company’s policies on data privacy and the localized hosting of data by keeping it essentially where it was generated, thereby avoiding any of the increasing regulatory scrutiny.

Here are four real-world uses cases for CSPS to consider:

Gaming – Studies have shown that even the smallest amount of latency in VR gaming not only shatters the illusion created by the game, but also gives users a ‘seasick’ motion sickness feeling. Edge computing will drive the latency down to millisecond times, thus enabling a more realistic experience.

Industry 4.0 – One of the potential plays for CSPs in industrial IoT is Augmented Reality (AR) headsets for field engineers. Placing the data they need on site, at the network edge, will create a more seamless experience in accessing complex technical instructions for completing their tasks. Speeding up data access in this use case can counteract any RAN connectivity shortcomings that may be inherent in environments filled with electromagnetic interference and leakage.

Streaming video – MEC will not directly help with the transmission of the content data, but it can be put to use in immediately identifying security threats and triggering a response. That in turn becomes high value for businesses.

Fixed perimeter venues – Stadium experiences, corporate campuses, theme parks, universities, festivals all have a fixed physical space served by a fixed number of radio cells, often with a shared demographic of users within that area. Supplying all devices within that perimeter with common functionality, security and experience has clear advantages, but lessening the backhaul from these scenarios is huge for MNOs. Placing the compute function on site would tackle many of the age-old capacity challenges of large groups of people in one place, all using mobile data-thirsty applications.

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