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Take 5: Edge computing and 5G

Part of the Take 5 on 5G article series

Jack Fritz, Rob Kasegrande, and Sanket Nesargi, all leaders from Deloitte’s Connected Everything: 5G and Edge Computing practice, share their perspectives on five key questions around edge computing as it relates to 5G.

1. What is edge computing, and why does it matter with 5G?

Sanket: Simply defined, edge computing is a paradigm that brings processing closer to the end user. Edge computing, in some form or another, has been around for a while and comes in a variety of forms. More recently, a distributed architecture has been built for edge computing, and this is critical for enabling next-generation 5G applications. For example, the newest developments around multiaccess edge compute, also called mobile edge compute, are enabling new use cases which require ultra-low latency coupled with high reliability.

Without edge computing, 5G is simply a fast network technology. 5G was designed to carry massive amounts of data while providing low latency, high reliability, and immense speed or bandwidth. However, when millions of devices connect to the network, and data from each device floods in, the bandwidth required to transport all of these to the cloud becomes quickly overwhelming. In addition, the only way to achieve revolutionary latency requirements promised by 5G is by processing data at the edge so that it is as close as possible to where it’s generated or being used.

Rob: From a business perspective, 5G and edge computing have a symbiotic relationship. The transformational aspects of 5G are closely tied to edge. Without edge computing, 5G wouldn’t be able to meet the promises it is expected to deliver. Advancements in technologies like AI, machine learning, deep analytics, and AR/VR will only be made possible by high-speed connectivity paired with data processing close to the end user.

2. What will a world connected by edge computing and 5G look like?

Jack: At a high level, there will be more connectivity attached to our everyday lives. Not only are more things going to be connected, but they’re also going to be on the move and increasingly interacting with each other versus interacting with people. We will see increasing orchestration of machines, robots, and independent systems. Ultimately, 5G and edge computing use cases will allow for more seamless automation and coordination among disparate systems.

Rob: The actions and the tasks that humans execute will continue to transform and change. For example, in the world of manufacturing, 5G and edge computing will automate preventative maintenance on machinery and quality sensing of manufacturing lines, which will reduce the amount of human interaction needed. This will free up resources to instead focus on things like redefining the manufacturing process or product development—and we expect to see a similar shift across many industries.

3. How will edge computing and 5G affect me and my organization?

Jack: At an industry level, there is a plethora of 5G and edge computing use case that have been identified. At the organizational level, 5G and edge computing have the potential to touch all roles and functions, either directly or indirectly. It will transform everything from how organizations interact with their customers to how they do forecasting and planning. Like any new disruptive technology, the impact edge computing and 5G will ultimately have on an organization depends on where they are leveraged and what technical issues they intended to address.

Rob: From what we’ve seen, transformation is often led by the CTO and CIO organizations, but, in some cases, it’s been on the operational or strategy side. In every case, we see transformation and change management as a critical component. Once a road map is developed for how to leverage 5G and edge as an enabling capability, what solutions to build with it, and the ways it will be used, functions and roles across the executive suite become involved.

4. What challenges might my organization face along the journey?

Sanket: The biggest challenge organizations are facing is understanding the ultimate value that 5G and edge computing can unlock. Many people get hung up on identifying a collection of exceptional 5G and edge computing use cases to justify the return on investment. Rather, what we see is the value of 5G as an enabling technology and recognizing it for its broader potential. Once an organization embraces 5G as a key component of its digital transformation, it can envision and introduce new use cases which harness the power of the technology.

Jack: Another challenge we see organizations struggling with is the complexity of it all. Understanding the technology, prioritizing the 5G and edge computing use cases, modeling the financial impacts, navigating the regulatory considerations, and working through change management are all hurdles organizations face.  On top of that, the connectivity ecosystem is often hard to navigate as it has become increasingly modular, with many solutions to consider and tradeoffs that impact key factors like price, performance, and control.

5. What should my organization do today in regards to edge computing and 5G?

Jack: From our research, we found that 86 percent of people see this technology transforming their company, and we’ve seen a strong willingness to invest across many industries. In an increasingly connected world, it’s better to be early than late, and we see many organizations beginning their journey today.   

To get started, identify the goals you want to achieve and the hurdles that advanced connectivity can help you overcome. This will involve having a baseline understanding of edge computing, 5G, and the implications from a business and technology standpoint. Then, you can explore the 5G and edge computing use cases that are applicable to your organization and a roadmap to move ahead.

Sanket: With edge computing, 5G private networks, and associated devices available now, platforms can be put in place today while the public 5G network continues to be built out. Organizations that start to integrate 5G and edge can leverage the technology for other uses. That’s how you drive an ever-increasing return on investment. 5G is ultimately a platform for growth that can continue to be scaled to solve issues across the organization. The initial investment serves as a step function because of what the platform can enable. The most important action organizations can take is to get started today.

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