Telecoms.com periodically invites third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece John Reister, SVP Marketing and Product at Vasona Networks talks about how edge computing can be used in the field.
When people in telecom talk about multi-access edge computing (MEC) and its role in the lead-up to 5G, they often talk in terms of network proximity to the customer, and the best way to process and deliver data. Often lost in these conversations are the reasons we’re doing this – why MEC and why now?
The breadth of services and opportunities edge computing can enable spans many industries, especially those that have not yet been disrupted by hyper-connectivity. It’s the farm fields. The semi-trucks. The cities. It’s about the gaming fan who wants more from their phone when it comes to speed and processing power.
These visions are coming to life, and MEC is the driver. Importantly, these advancements are allowing operators to deploy 5G-like functionality in networks today. Looking at some of the MEC-based use cases that have been demonstrated recently will give us a glimpse into what the near future holds.
Meet the Flying Field Worker
Picture this scenario: a farmer is losing a portion of her crop every year because there aren’t enough workers on hand to catch diseased or insect-infested plants before it’s too late. A tech-based approach to this challenge wasn’t previously possible because the coverage area is far too vast for Wi-Fi.
Yet, today, this farmer can deploy drones to take video of thousands of acres daily, scanning the video images to detect fungus and pests in real-time. The farm workers or the drones can then spray surgically and preventatively only as needed, saving on labor costs and on materials, since bulk spraying can be avoided. And the farmer will save more of her crop, which increases earnings.
With MEC at the heart of this operation, there is no need to carry dozens of video streams back to a data center. With MEC video processing, the farmer’s business is transformed. She never needs to know that MEC was involved. That’s her mobile provider’s job.
Giving Networks a Break(out) for Better IoT, Gaming and More
At Mobile World Congress last year, Intel, RIFT.io, Vasona Networks and Xaptum came together to demonstrate low-latency industrial IoT with real-time data exchange between devices and cloud-based apps. The star of the show was the ability to recognize a certain type of traffic and “break” it out of its traditional network path for edge-based processing and delivery. It’s fast, secure and provides consistent service.
The demand grew in one year’s time. At a tier-one operator’s request, Vasona collaborated with a cloud-gaming company at Mobile World Congress 2018 to demonstrate how edge computing could power better mobile gaming experiences. Utilizing an edge compute cloud that hosts and streams high-performance workloads and applications on-demand (ideal for streaming interactive content), the vision was to liberate processor-intensive gaming from expensive consoles and home rigs, and deliver that same power and experience to mobile users. MEC with edge breakout powered an experience that let people play Doom on an Android phone without hiccups or stalls even when connected via a congested LTE network. Traffic was diverted from its typical path to GPUs located in edge-based cloud servers operated by LiquidSky. Putting that kind of power in the cloud with accessibility virtually everywhere is a literal game changer. It’s also a potential new revenue line for operators.
Making Cities Picture Perfect
Cities are already getting smarter, and demonstrations have shown that MEC can help support complete connectivity and coverage. As infrastructure, such as cameras and IoT sensors, manage everything from traffic flows and crowd control, to public safety, utility threats and more, these applications need fast, edge-based processing to make automated real-time decisions. Cameras powering security apps must be able to scan license plates in real time. To alleviate dreaded rush hour congestion, they must be able to capture and quickly process traffic flows. Remote IoT monitors need to be able to communicate real-time conditions for smarter energy usage and resource allocation. Once again, MEC is the network star of the show making it all possible. After all, once a city becomes smart, it can run continuously, consistently and efficiently. Without that efficiency, it’s not very smart.
The bottom line? Once we reimagine what the mobile network can look like, the opportunities for new services opens wide. 5G promises to further transform industries, but operators need not wait to get started delivering on its potential.
John Reister, SVP of marketing and product with Vasona Networks will be speaking about MEC, Slicing and the Evolution to 5G, 3:50pm on May 14 at Edge Computing Congress Americas, part of 5G North America 2018 in Austin, Texas.