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Taking innovation from precarious place to competitive edge | Guest blog from NTT Ltd

Author: Stephen Green, SVP Offer to Client Transformation, NTT Ltd.

Edgy, close to the edge, on the edge of our seat – phrases like this make the edge sound a precarious place to be. Yet in today’s organisations, this is exactly where a significant and growing proportion of demand for computing power, data analysis and decision-making sits. So much so that edge computing cannot afford to be precarious.

Edge computing is not new. Industries such as Manufacturing and Distribution were among the first to create more distributed networks. With a focus on availability, relieving bandwidth pressure and decreasing latency for factory floors and warehouses, these networks increased the speed of data access and analysis from a host of smart sensors, mobile and IoT devices.

This fundamental shift away from a traditional hub and spoke infrastructure for faster, localised decision making is now applied to many edge device use cases – from hospital doctors monitoring patients’ vital signs on the move, to branch and mobile banking services, to auditing refrigeration sensors in supermarkets. In some areas such as smart city design, delivering innovation depends on the agile, digital connectivity of an edge infrastructure.

A fundamental shift away from a traditional hub and spoke infrastructure towards faster, localised decision making

This opportunity to leapfrog the potential constraints of legacy architecture, combined with the changes to working practices post pandemic, have sparked new conversations about edge computing – encouraging bold rethinking of where and how technology can deliver the best outcomes. So, what are the technology innovations supporting the demand for edge computing?

The need for speed at the edge is being supported by advances in cost-effective, richer capability sensors that are reducing data loads and offering as close to real-time information and reporting as is necessary. We have also seen clients take the decision to replace sensors with 4K cameras to deliver richer experiences. Developments in image analysis, combined with artificial intelligence, not only make hardware easier to manage, but also offer the potential to observe hundreds of places at the same time, zoom in at sub-millimetre scale, even see in the dark.

For some organisations, 5G has been key to achieving new levels of high-speed operational performance and delivering the continuous availability required to the increased number of devices connected to the network from the edge. Many clients are using private 5G in conjunction with multicloud to implement virtual networks (network slicing), initiate subnets for targeted connectivity as well as create a programmable network which prioritises connections to avoid possible overloads of the mobile network.

With all this new capability at the edge, imagination becomes the only constraint to innovation, as we have seen in the BMW Group Innovation Hub at their plant in Dingolfing, Germany. A collaboration between NTT, BMW and Intel Corporation, this centre of edge excellence is a place where ideas can become production reality and employees can learn new skills.

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