Mobile Edge Computing: Lightning Speed from Factory to Personal Devices
It seems like we’ve been hearing about 5G for years now, and how when it’s here, it will revolutionize connectivity as we know it.
Well, 5G is here, but beyond faster or more reliable cell service, few companies have begun to tap into the potential 5G holds for both business-to-business and business-to-consumer innovation.
In fact, this potential extends beyond the telecommunications industry into nearly all sectors that rely on connectivity, like the manufacturing, automotive and even agricultural industries, among others. By using the power of 5G networks and pairing that with intelligent software, enterprises can embrace the next generation of industry by launching IoT solutions and enabling enhanced data collection at the edge.
This article will explore key questions around the slow move toward 5G innovation and how mobile edge computing can accelerate the push to near-instantaneous network connectivity.
What’s Standing in the Way of Innovation?
When COVID-19 hit, numerous companies worldwide experienced a rapid transition into a digital-first mindset, a change that only magnified the existing need for digital transformation. Add this to other challenges, like delays and disruptions to unpredictable markets and an evolving workforce, and it generates a perfect storm of tremendous pressure, both from consumers and competition, to innovate.
Over the past few years, the rise of remote workforces and increased digital interaction only added to the increasingly large volume of devices becoming connected. However, as the Internet of Things (or IoT) grows, the heterogeneity of hardware types, legacy applications and proprietary protocols will grow with it. As a result, maintenance costs can quickly rise, the need for specialized labor further increases, and the underlying desire for higher reliability and ubiquitous connectivity remains far-fetched.
Tapping into 5G technology alone is not enough. Gartner estimated that in 2018, around 10% of enterprise-generated data was created and processed outside a traditional centralized data center or cloud. This figure is forecast to reach 75% by 2025. While next-generation networks can introduce up to 100x improvements in speed and throughput, the existing underlying cloud computing environments, without any optimization, remain the primary bottleneck to delivering ultra-low-latency applications.
This is where mobile edge computing (MEC) comes in.
What Is Mobile Edge Computing?
MEC, also referred to as multiaccess edge computing, introduces a new mode of cloud deployments whereby enterprises can run applications through virtual machines, containers or Kubernetes clusters within the 5G network, be it public or private.
Whether you’re operating in a public MEC deployment, where compute and storage are deployed within the carrier data centers, or a private MEC deployment with on-premise provisioned compute and storage, one of the greatest benefits of a MEC portfolio is the ability to create a unified compute mesh across both of these environments, referred to as hybrid MEC.
MEC allows devices to connect and process data at the edge, or the optimal network, by provisioning compute and storage within the carrier network. Applications requiring low-latency access can be deployed at the optimal edge point, essentially getting data to devices faster than ever.
Mobile Edge Computing + Smart Manufacturing Benefits for the Bottom Line
What does this mean in practice? The benefits reach beyond streaming videos on your phone with undetectable delay.
Consider operations in a manufacturing plant. Modern industrial manufacturing processes are making greater use of connected devices to optimize production while controlling costs. Connected devices exist throughout the process, from sensors on manufacturing equipment to mobile devices used by employees on the factory floor to connected vehicles transporting goods — all generating large amounts of data.
Manufacturers everywhere are grappling with how to leverage this data for tangible benefits to the bottom line. To realize the benefits of this data, it is critical that it be processed and analyzed in real time to enable rapid action.
In the past, moving this data from the devices to the cloud for processing introduced unnecessary latency and tedious data transmission. Today, manufacturers can avoid these inefficiencies by processing data at the edge.
Two potential cost reductions through MEC are process optimization and preventative maintenance — two areas that are major pain points for those in the manufacturing industry. Let’s take a closer look at both:
- Preventative Maintenance — The failure of one machine has the potential to bring all production to a grinding halt, or at the very least cut into profitability. When telemetry data is processed in real time, employees can be alerted to impending machinery malfunctions before they occur. Parsing data from countless sensors and devices on the shop floor in real time to identify a potential failure is impossible. However, when data is processed at the edge and controlled via artificial intelligence or machine learning algorithms, you can shut down machines and conduct maintenance before a problem even occurs.
- Process Optimization — Similar to preventative maintenance, the ability to gain in-the-moment insights from telemetry data gives manufacturers the information needed to make informed decisions about where optimizations are needed and what changes could improve efficiency. When you have access to crucial data, you have the opportunity to improve product quality, increase yield, optimize the use of raw materials and better track key performance indicators, such as overall equipment efficiency.
Manufacturing is just one of many industries that can benefit from the power of mobile edge computing. The future of intelligent machines and data is all about taking individual components and having them operate together as one. Data generated by connected devices will underpin modern applications that will drive efficiencies across businesses and improve user experiences.
Through 5G networks and edge computing, enterprises across industries can begin to develop end-to-end value chains that perform as a cohesive, self-improving and self-healing service.
Want to learn more about Mobile Edge Computing? Download the free book, “Mobile Edge Computing: Realizing the benefits of 5G with MongoDB’s Developer Data Platform and Verizon 5G Edge.”