5G & Networking Infrastructure: Why Edge Computing Will Improve Data Processing and Improve User Experience

Once an emerging technology, the Internet of Things (IoT) is taking the world by storm. IoT-enabled devices are found across all types of industries, and most consumers have at least a few smart devices in their home.

One of the greatest benefits of widespread IoT adoption is the massive volume of data these devices can collect, giving businesses insights like never before. Unfortunately, data is only as good as its processing and analytics, creating concerns over how these devices and their data can be managed and supported in IoT ecosystems.

The future is looking bright with 5G and edge computing. These two technologies offer a wealth of value to IoT devices and provide businesses with options to access, collect, and analyze the massive influx of data for better insights and improved customer experience.

Understanding 5G

5G is the fifth-generation mobile network and new global wireless standard after 1G, 2G, 3G, and 4G. Most consumers are familiar with 4G, but 5G is up to 100 times faster and enables a new type of network that can connect virtually everything and everyone together across machines, devices, and objects.

5G wireless technology is unique in that in can deliver higher multi-Gbps peak data speeds, low latency, massive network capacity, better reliability, improved availability, and a more uniform experience across users.

Currently, cellular technology leverages low-band spectrum frequencies and sends out signals over long distances. This has its purposes, but low-frequency transmissions take up too much bandwidth and lead to heavy network congestion, which can slow performance.

High-frequency signals use lower bandwidth and deliver higher data volumes, but they don’t have the advantage of long distances. They also can’t pass through obstacles, such as buildings, which are a big part of future IoT plans like smart cities and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I).

Using both spectrums, 5G can offer the ideal combination of distance and bandwidth to improve performance. High-frequency bands are used to transmit data quickly to the user, while low-frequency bands can transmit data over significant distances. This allows large networks of connected devices to be used simultaneously, all with powerful performance.

In the broad sense, 5G is being used across three types of connected services:

  • Enhanced Mobile Broadband: 5G is about more than improving smartphones – this technology can provide deeper immersive experiences like augmented reality and virtual reality with faster data rates and lower cost-per-bit.
  • Mission-Critical Communications: 5G can transform industries by providing available, reliable, and low-latency links to offer remote management of vehicles, medical procedures, infrastructure, and more.
  • IoT: 5G seamlessly connects vast networks of embedded sensors in IoT devices, while also scaling down power, mobility, and data rates. Businesses can operate leaner and with lower-cost solutions for connectivity.

Understanding Edge Computing

Most networks have data stored, managed, and analyzed in a centralized, cloud-based network core. These cores may be hundreds of miles from the devices that collect the data, meaning that any data has to travel long distances to reach its storage center.

For businesses with huge IoT ecosystems, this can be incredible volumes of data that has to travel across the network for storage and analysis, increasing the traffic and congestion on the network. In addition, that data needs to be filtered and analyzed, some of which won’t be used.

Data is collected at the edge of the network, near the devices and end users. Once the data is sent to the core, it must be processed and analyzed before it’s sent back to the devices and users. The significant delay that can occur in this situation may be enough to impact mission critical decisions, since data-driven insights aren’t provided in real time.

i.MX 8 Edge computing addresses these issues and limitations by shifting the key aspects of data processing to the edge of the network. Instead of data traveling back to the network core, it can be processed and filtered at the edge, ensuring that only important data is sent to the cloud-based storage center. This not only reduces traffic, but ensures that end users have the insights they need to make real-time decisions.

5G & Networking Infrastructure

In addition, edge computing moves the processing to the edge, improving issues of latency and poor network performance. IoT devices can be enabled with self-processing for data, further limiting the data that needs to make its way back to the storage center.

Finally, edge computing processes data at edge data centers or on the devices themselves, keeping the networks resilient. These edge data centers can gather, process, and analyze data in isolation, ensuring that the rest of the network is protected if components are compromised.

5G and Edge Computing for a Powerful, Multifaceted Solution

Clearly, 5G and edge computing offer incredible benefits for network performance with IoT devices. Together, they can address many of the most-pressing challenges presented by the increasing adoption of IoT networks and provide high-tier networks and fuel enhanced digital transformation across industries.

As the name suggests, IoT devices require an internet connection to function. With optimal connectivity, IoT devices can gather and transmit massive amounts of data in a flash, and some IoT devices have additional technology to store and process data in the device itself. From there, the information is communicated to nearby devices on the same network.

5G and edge computing can build on this by enhancing the IoT devices without self-processing capabilities and by complementing each other’s capabilities. 5G supports long-distance data transmission, which is helpful when the network core is miles away, but it doesn’t have the connectivity for efficient IoT networks. Conversely, edge computing doesn’t transmit data over distances, but it can process data near the device and end user for fewer delays with mission-critical tasks.

Combined, 5G and IoT can facilitate the high performance and connectivity that IoT needs to reach its potential. These technologies help IoT devices reach and sustain high connectivity on the network’s edge, processing and transmitting high volumes of data at lightning speeds.

As more devices and industries adopt 5G, IoT devices and edge data centers can create opportunities for collecting, processing, and analyzing data efficiently on the edge without performance issues. With this in place, 5G networks can be interconnected on the edge to process data and deliver critical analysis of valued data, while sending less-critical data back to the core for storage.

5G and Edge Computing Use Cases

Coupled with 5G, edge computing holds a lot of potential for many functionalities and capabilities, such as:

  • Mobile broadband and RAN: Mobile broadband is a remarkable significant 4G use case and represents some of the earliest 5G use cases. 5G mobile broadband service can enhance speed by up to 100 times that of 5G, particularly across the high-frequency spectrum. 5G can also create open RAN standards to deploy varied mobile operations ecosystems.
  • Connected vehicles: Autonomous and connected vehicles may be the most interesting and hotly anticipated uses for IoT. Making this a reality requires a lot of planning and solid solutions to current challenges with IoT, especially in V2I. 5G and edge computing can handle more devices and sensors, as well as incoming data, to provide the speed and connectivity self-driving vehicles and infrastructure need to make human-like decisions. These technologies also help vehicles connect with other vehicles and infrastructure to create safer driver experiences.
  • VR and AR: Both virtual reality and augmented reality rely on creating a realistic, immersive experience. These technologies aren’t just limited to games, but may be used for brands to offer virtual try-ons and in-store shopping experiences. For wider adoption of VR/AR technology, 5G and edge computing are necessary for lower latency, better performance, and top-notch image rendering for a more immersive experience.
  • Telesurgery: Remote surgery opens a world of possibility for medical care in remote and underserved communities, but it relies on huge amounts of data processing and a high-speed network. Because of the stakes, remote surgery can’t tolerate latency. 5G and edge computing can transmit high-quality, real-time medical videos with quality controls for jitter, throughput, and delays.
  • Medical robotics: Similar to telesurgery, medical robotics have plenty of potential for improving healthcare, but also rely on connectivity and high performance to succeed. 5G and edge computing for AI-enabled IoT devices can improve the training processes, connectivity with robotics systems, and more, ensuring that these technologies can operate in real-time to deliver optimal medical care.
  • Drone technology: Drone technology needs onboard computing power, such as an i.MX 6 SBC, to improve speed and agility. 5G combined with edge computing can include onboard computing, offloaded edge computing, or partial offloaded edge computing to prioritize computing tasks, navigation, communication, image processing, and other mission-critical functionalities.
  • Real-time gaming: Gaming is all about the experience. Typically, multiplayer online game processing is performed locally with data that’s gathered, processed, and analyzed in massive data cores. The time for data to transmit to the core and return to the end user can significantly impact the gaming experience. 5G and edge computing keeps the data processing centers closer to the gaming devices, conserving the computing power for enhanced gameplay.

Looking to the Future

5G and edge computing offer one of the most promising solutions to the challenges of increased IoT adoption. As consumer demand for data-enabled services increases, businesses will need to collect, process, and analyze more data to provide a better experience. Armed with 5G and edge computing, businesses across all industries can meet these demands with better network services and dynamic IoT ecosystems.

Author Bio: Jason Khoo

Jason is the Head of SEM at SolidRun which is a global leading developer of embedded systems and network solutions, focused on a wide range of energy-efficient, powerful and flexible products which help OEMs around the world simplify application development while overcoming deployment challenges