With the prevalence of the internet, the world becomes increasingly connected. In the course of everyday life, we produce, process, and transmit enormous amount of data. Whether at factories in which machines perform with little human intervention, or among consumers with multiple smart and connected devices at our disposal, data underpins modern life.
In the early stages of the information age, data was stored locally, stored and secured on equipment managed by the data owner. The advancement of cloud computing technologies allows companies and individuals to take advantage of services offered by cloud providers such as Amazon and Google to use virtual space, the “cloud”, to manage their data. However, the transmission of data between the endpoints and the cloud hosted by the provider consumes a great deal of energy and hampered by latency, meaning that cloud solutions may not be appropriate for every case.
What is edge computing?
With a rapid growing number of devices able to connect to each other, more and more of them appear at the “edge” of the network. This is where a lot of the data storage and process will take place in the future, giving rise to the term edge computing, the so-called “Third Act of the Internet” (State of the Edge 2020, p4).
Edge computing is the delivering of computing capabilities to the local points of a network, through which greater performance, less latency and less cost is obtained. Smart speakers, for example, perform little to no computational work; requests are sent from the device to servers owned by the smart speaker provider. Using edge computing, smart speakers would be able to receive and process a user’s request entirely on the device itself.
IoT, 5G, and edge
The need for localized network infrastructure and computing power is highlighted by the ever-growing Internet of Things (IoT), a term used to describe the network of connected devices. A growing amount of data is generated at the endpoints, burdening the traditional network structure.
The emergence and application of 5G, the fifth generation of cellular network technologies that allows for much greater bandwidth, accelerates the growth of IoT while paving the way for edge computing. AI-optimized processors, which provide greater computing power, also enable wider adoption of edge systems.
Edge computing market and adoption
Edge computing has become a big market and continues to grow at a great speed – the forecast global revenue is set to reach 274 billion U.S. dollars by 2025. Some industries such as manufacturing and telecommunications have already put implementations of edge solutions on the schedule. Businesses look to gain benefits such as new core business functions and capabilities as well as the improvement of monitoring, response, and site reliability from their edge strategy.
With more than 800 patent filings, the Chinese telco equipment and consumer electronics company Huawei leads the edge patent race, followed by the American chip giant Intel and the Finnish telco firm Nokia. Other tech and telco giants such as Apple, Samsung, and Verizon are also major contributors to edge patents. The abundance of big tech companies among edge patent contributors is a clear marker of the field’s importance in the years to come.
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Lionel Sujay Vailshery
Research expert covering the consumer electronics industry