Discover the transformative potential of edge computing in everyday life. In this insightful piece by Vito Savino of OmniOn Power, explore how this technology is revolutionizing consumer experiences.
Enterprises across multiple industries are turning to high-performance edge computing to meet the demand for processing locally sourced digital data to drive accurate, real-time decision making. Technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning require powerful computing, typically housed in data centers or the cloud, to get to the edge.
Global enterprise and service provider spending on edge computing is on track to reach $208 billion this year (2023), according to research from IDC. That’s up more than 13% from just a year ago, and growth is predicted to reach nearly $317 billion by 2026.
Use cases have included autonomous vehicles, autonomous warehouses that use robots to perform tasks, and military applications such as targeting software on unmanned drones that rely on large amounts of sensor information. In healthcare, edge computing is being used to help make telehealth and robotic surgery in remote areas a reality.
Edge computing is increasingly emerging from the edge to help drive the data and speed demands of many consumer applications. A few 19 industriesincluding financial services, transportation and government, is exploring edge computing for applications such as smart grids, fleet management, public safety, emergency response and automated preventive maintenance.
While the promise of edge computing for consumer applications is exciting, it is far from mainstream for many reasons, including security concerns, inadequate power infrastructure, and even political divisions from mistrust of new technologies and government oversight. Let’s dive into some exciting ways that edge computing can be introduced into the mainstream and some of the power challenges that may hinder its expansion into everyday life.
The power considerations to make Edge mainstream
As consumers demand higher performance from AI-powered applications like ChatGPT, as well as interactive entertainment and e-commerce experiences that require large amounts of reliable power and data integrity (not to mention security), the heat is on for vendors to find ways to bring edge- data centers closer to the consumers who rely on them.
Consumer AI-powered apps that require speed and quick feedback will help drive mainstream edge computing in the future. Think of the potential applications embedded in consumer devices and vehicles, from instant banking to multiplayer gaming and real-time sports betting. Augmented reality in interactive social media experiences, where the real world meets computer-generated sounds and visuals, will require lots of computing and infrastructure like radio transmitters, towers and backup battery power to make it all reliable. For example, the NBA earlier this year tested new augmented reality (AR) fan experiences using 5G technology, allowing spectators to take 360-degree body scans on their smartphones during live games and “insert” their avatar into a picture by a live player, making it look like they were the ones dribbling in for a layup.
Phones and other consumer devices only have so much power, and many consumers complain about slow applications or limited battery life. At the same time, their users demand miniaturization and mobility. As devices become smaller but still process more data faster, the need for batteries that can handle increased power density increases. However, larger batteries make for more cumbersome devices, and consumers will continue to demand devices that can provide higher performance in a smaller package. More robust backup sources, such as supercapacitors, will need to be invented and used to store energy for later use.
To make these futuristic applications a reality, edge data centers need to be installed in neighborhoods, residential areas, and outside entertainment venues to handle the massive data needs. That won’t be an easy sell to data center developers, who prefer locations near water sources or in larger, nondescript buildings like warehouses with climate-controlled environments that are easier to maintain and protect against weather, wildlife, vandalism and theft.
Barriers to Adoption for the Mainstream Edge
High-performance edge data centers and their associated power systems can also generate a lot of heat, which must be dissipated to avoid damaging components and sacrificing efficiency. Data center designs in small shacks and buildings will eschew space in favor of highly efficient power designs with features such as rectifiers that can precisely and efficiently control the output voltage while maintaining reliability under extreme conditions.
Power sources can be sporadic or subject to fluctuating voltage surges in locations where edge data centers are introduced, so power must be efficiently processed and converted from the grid to the end use. In addition, reliable and redundant backup power requirements are essential, especially in locations where grid reliability is unstable. An edge data center’s power system must quickly switch to battery backup power in the event of a power outage while maintaining system integrity under all conditions.
Power outages and potential tampering will lead to performance and security issues. If the power goes out at home, consumers risk losing the internet for short periods. If an edge data center in a neighborhood goes offline, it can cause autonomous vehicles to lose access to real-time sensor data that can proactively reroute a vehicle based on updated traffic data or avoid a collision. Someone conducting a sensitive banking transaction can suddenly and irrevocably lose important financial data – and the money that goes with it.
Another barrier is the slow adoption of 5G networks, which promise greater bandwidth and lower latency. While these networks—and the applications they enable—will drive the need for expanded data centers, widespread deployments have been slower than originally expected. Some places have embraced the technology, while others in more rural areas have not yet been able to justify the costs of installing and maintaining the necessary infrastructure. The US government, on the other hand passed The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA), which provides $400 billion in subsidies to finance clean energy, and it is so far unclear whether it will help offset investment costs.
See more: Edge Computing in the Modern IT Landscape: A Future Outlook
Mainstream Edge Computing will require investment, collaboration
The success of edge computing as a mainstream technology will largely depend on two things: the ability to sell it to the public and the willingness of local governments to invest in the infrastructure to make it work. Building out data centers, transmission systems, backup power options, and hiring technicians to fix it all can be an expensive initial investment, and citizens don’t want their taxes raised based on a technology they don’t understand. That can change if the public can be shown how edge computing can save time and money. Imagine the sales pitch inherent in saving two hours a day in commuting time that allows them to focus on other tasks rather than driving a vehicle.
Real estate developers may consider building high-end data centers into new subdivisions rather than installing them in yards or public spaces where they are less aesthetically tolerable. Demo quarters can be built so potential buyers can see it in action before buying.
Finally, government investment will need to increase. Incentive IRA money is available to telecommunications companies looking to invest on the edge. Still, governments may want access to data and performance information in return, and that may not sit well with some people.
The day is coming when edge data centers will be used to power not only high-performance, complex equipment in niche industries, but also in everyday consumer applications that require constant, reliable connectivity. To make it a reality, governments, service providers and businesses will need to work together with partners who can provide equipment that can power such technology.
How can edge computing redefine your daily tasks? Why is collaboration critical to integrating advanced technology? Let us know on Facebook, Xand LinkedIn. We’d love to hear from you!
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