Here we go again: The ever-knowledgeable Gartner continue to shine a light on the tech innovations that any self-respecting, twenty-first century organisation, should be embracing. And number five on their Strategic Trends for 2019 list is empowered edge.
This is not a new observation for them. At the Gartner Symposium/ITXpo in Orlando last year, analysts from the leading research and advisory group predicted the growth of empowered edge. They believe the maturation of 5G will enable edge computing to evolve to a point where it complements and enhances cloud services, at present a far more widely-used and mainstream strategic technology. Basically, this is going to hit (and help) us all sometime.
So, what is Empowered Edge?
It might sound like a right-on boy band name, but Empowered Edge is a bit cleverer than that. Put simply, it’s devolved processing. Much like devolved government, it’s a way to put the power – in this case digital power - closer to the user.
The term ‘edge’ refers to the endpoint devices that people are using. Or, in the case of the Internet of Things (IoT), the endpoints embedded in the world around us. The description ‘edge computing’ comes from a computing topology in which information processing, content collection and delivery are placed closer to the endpoints.
The benefits of moving the processing power to the ‘edge’
The key benefit to empowered edge is that by keeping traffic and processing local, the network reduces a central clog that can lead to digital inertia – the spinning beachball of doom day’s are numbered.
At the moment, edge technology is being driven by necessity. The IoT demands that processing is done closer to an endpoint rather than a centralised cloud server. Where edge computing gets smart however, is its desire to integrate with rather than supplant the existing cloud service model. Gartner predict that “rather than creating a new architecture, cloud computing and edge computing will evolve as complementary models”. As we’ve seen in other recent innovations such as Digital Twins, it has been a union of technology that has achieved the most success stories.
To return, for a second, to the devolved government analogy; successfully localised power is paradoxically driven by strong links to central command. Likewise, edge computing will truly thrive when it can link seamlessly back to its centralised servers. The change will happen at both ends of the system - with analysts foreseeing cloud servers expanding to become more than centralised servers. As edge technology grows, endpoints will need to rely on cloud servers to also act as distribution servers, on-premises and on the edge devices themselves.
And it’s not just the cloud that is going to make the difference and help us all have a smoother faster digital journey. Gartner references the potential of specialised AI chips in devices, expected over the next five years. These, along with greater processing power, storage and other organic advances will be added to edge devices to make them more powerful, flexible and effective. In the longer term, the maturation of 5G will deliver more robust communications back and forward between edge devices and centralise services. 5G will not only provide lower latency and higher bandwidth, but – crucially for edge endpoints – a dramatic increase in the number of nodes per square km. You don’t have to be a tech wizard to know a good network makes all the difference. So, this can only be good for developments across the board.
As ever it’s hard to see with clarity where all of this entwined and interactive technology is going to end up. What we can see is that with every small piece like this that improves; the whole system improves. And more than that. It improves exponentially as an innovation here, drives a breakthrough elsewhere.
At SSE, we’re very excited about the possibilities. We can see Edge technology making the work we already do with Remote Optimal, and other in situ tech, smoother, faster, and over time – more powerful. Ultimately, it’s all about helping businesses perform better.
If you’d like to talk about how we’re already using the IoT and other tech to help clients, we’re always delighted to chat and hear your situation - 0345 072 9529 or email firstname.lastname@example.org