Edge Computing for IoT Use Cases

Author: Collin Freer

Edge computing moves data processing from centralized cloud-based data centers to distributed locations (e.g. radio towers or Baseband Unit hotels) closer to where the data are needed. Placing computing power closer to the area of need reduces latency. It also allows individual devices to spin up or spin down network functions in response to local demand. A multi-access edge computing (MEC) server in the middle can push computing functions down to local devices where possible or retain certain functions itself.

The Role of Edge Computing and Network Slicing

This goes hand-in-hand with network slicing as a facilitator for enterprise IoT. Users have diverse and often conflicting network needs (reliability, responsiveness, security, etc.) Network slicing partitions a given network to tailor the characteristics of a slice to the needs of similar users. The result is multiple dedicated networks on a common platform, operating independently on a common infrastructure.

Where computation is localized with edge computing and networks are sliced to meet the needs of individual enterprise users, those users can have networks that perfectly fit their needs. Those networks will also be able to handle the unique demands of smart supply chains, smart building management, or any other IoT application.

MNOs that can partner with enterprise users to offer bespoke edge computing and network slicing services will facilitate next-generation IoT use cases. Those that build up core competencies in those areas now will lead the way in these pioneering applications.

Edge Computing for IoT Use Cases

Broadly available consumer internet of things (IoT) hardware with which most people are familiar has only scratched the surface of the technology’s potential. Business-facing use cases such as smart building management and increasingly automated warehousing and manufacturing operations are set to provide enormous functionality and, in so doing, present challenges for networks. As the quantity of data produced, the low-latency required and the usage explode, edge computing will provide essential support.

Emerging B2B IoT Use Cases

Many emerging business-to-business use cases involve small and passive devices, with computation handled not by the device, but by the server. As these use cases proliferate, they will drive demand for edge computing.

For example, LoRa is a patented technology that allows for inexpensive, long-range connectivity. Among its uses is supply chain management through devices like smart pallets. Giving each pallet of material a unique, trackable ID would facilitate smart and efficient supply chain management, especially where coupled with automated forklifts and other such warehouse carriers.

But it would also require massive IoT connectivity. Hosting all computation for such a massive number of devices on a distant cloud server would run the risk of network congestion. And resultant levels of latency could prove prohibitive for use cases that need real-time feedback, such as automated forklift navigation. This is where MEC will prove itself essential.

inCode Speaks at SCTE Cable-Tec Expo 2019
Intro to MEC