Edge Computing & Digital Transformation

Oct 1, 2021
4 min read

In the last few years, several large organizations have been disrupted. Traditionally it was believed that organizations are mostly outflanked by competitors operating at a similar scale. However, most organizations are now facing disruptions from incumbents and startups. Indeed, digital transformation is changing the rules, and every organization is currently looking to up its game by investing in technology.

Simply defined, ‘digital transformation’ is rethinking how an organization uses and invests in technology, people, and processes. The primary aim of this transformation is to realize new business models and new revenue streams. However, this transformation must be driven by changes in customer expectations around products and services. Therefore, it is no surprise that almost every major company is racing to transform digitally with a sense of urgency.

Per technology analysts, the world will have 50 billion connected devices by 2030. This opens up an enormous opportunity for two significant reasons -

  1. As devices (on edge) become more intelligent, there is enormous scope for innovation and organizations that directly impact people’s lives.
  2. The amount of data that will be generated and available from the edge will be enormous. This information can provide real-time insight into customer information. Analyzing such massive data will allow organizations to make smarter decisions and potentially create new business models.

This brings us to the popular buzzword ‘Edge Computing’.

So, What Is Edge Computing?

Edge computing essentially offloads the storage and compute of resources close to the data source itself. This concept reduces the frequent transmission of raw data generated at the edge to a central data centre for processing and analysis. The storage and compute is performed where the data is generated. The data source could be a retail store, a factory floor, or simply a utility at a smart home. Only results of the computing work at the edge, such as real-time business insights, equipment maintenance predictions or other actionable answers, are sent back to the leading data centre for review and other human interactions.

Edge computing leads to the following advantages -

Better data management - Since it is decentralized, it can be managed more easily and used more efficiently.
Reduced connectivity costs - Since edge computing reduces the amount of data sent back and forth to the data centre, it reduces connectivity costs and saves bandwidth.
Security - Reduced data transmission ensures fewer man-in-the-middle attacks. Overall, it is simpler to ensure product security when most of the activity happens at the edge.
Reliable, uninterrupted connection

Edge Computing and Digital Transformation

Every organization aspires to reduce costs and increase security. Therefore, enterprises are seeing value in transforming the way they handle computing and are embracing Edge Computing to accelerate their Digital Transformation initiatives.

Edge computing has offered a distributed network that is highly scalable and efficient. These are again critical aspects of digital transformation.

Edge Computing has helped several enterprises to achieve faster and less restrictive data analysis. This has led to crucial technological innovations due to deeper insights, shorter response times, and improved customer experiences. Gadgets and devices channelizing the power of edge and AI can interpret, learn, and make decisions instantaneously.

Indeed, Edge and IoT can offer various opportunities to innovate. Let us look at a few use cases that prove that edge computing can certainly transform technology and business.

Edge Computing Digital Transformation Use Cases

Smart Homes

Smart homes primarily rely on IoT devices. These devices collect and process data from around the house. This data is then sent to a centralized server for processing and storage. However, this architecture is not without problems around cost, latency, and security. By using edge computing and bringing the processing and storage closer to the smart home, the roundtrip time (RTT) is reduced, and sensitive information can be processed securely at the edge. For example, the time taken for voice-based assistant devices such as Google Home to respond is much faster.

Healthcare

The healthcare industry has been flooded with patient data generated from devices, sensors, monitors and other medical equipment. Edge Computing helps tech companies access data, especially data that is flagged. This enables the initiation of immediate action by clinicians to help patients avoid health incidents in real-time. Edge computing can also cater to patient experience. IoT based applications (mobile/web) can help patients check their appointments and the schedule of doctors. These devices can also be used for navigation within the hospital.

Autonomous Vehicles

Autonomous vehicles rely on sensors and algorithms to imitate the actions of a human driver. These vehicles build a map of their surroundings based on a variety of sensors. Many large organizations requiring the transport of goods are already relying on Edge Computing. Autonomous platooning of truck convoys is a famous, identify use case for autonomous vehicles. Here, several trucks travel behind each other in convoy, saving fuel costs and decreasing congestion. With edge computing, it is possible to eliminate the need for drivers in all trucks except the front one, as they summarise can communicate with each other with ultra-low latency.

Retail

Edge Computing has proven to help retail businesses maximize the use of Internet of Things-based devices. This technology can power AI and machine learning technologies to enhance operational efficiency, identify business opportunities such as an effective endcap or campaign, predict sales, optimize vendor ordering, etc.

Apart from the use cases listed above, edge computing is helping transform the manufacturing sector, oil and gas companies and even financial sector biggies. Advancements in the area of virtual reality and augmented reality are rife. The success of innovations in AR and VR are mainly dependent on the fast response of edge devices. Solutions which rely on a combination of AR/VR and edge computing are sure to define new technology solutions.

What does the future hold?

Most organizations transitioned to the cloud due to the various benefits it offered. However, tomorrow’s organizations are looking to create highly scalable, efficient and secure networks which can break away from the limitations of the cloud networks. The introduction of Edge Computing in this landscape certainly elevates the potential from a technology and business perspective.

According to IDC, the worldwide market for edge computing is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.5% over the 2019–2024 forecast period. The valuation of this market will touch $250.6 billion by 2024. Organizations like Cisco, Google, Amazon, Walmart and several other tech giants are already exploring edge computing. Therefore, it is appropriate to claim that edge computing is the stepping stone to embark on the next digital transformation journey.

Michael Dell’s views on Edge computing summarize the potential of this digital transformation lever - “Edge Computing will be 100x what public cloud is!”