Dennis Hoffman of Dell Technologies on why edge computing’s greatest impact is yet to be realized.
Imagine a car cruising down the street when a deer suddenly darts out in front. There’s a millisecond to act and countless factors to consider. Swerving right may trigger a crash with an oncoming taxi. Veering left steers the car onto a sidewalk, endangering any pedestrians. Braking risks a collision with the van following too closely behind. Such decisions are made by drivers daily, too often resulting in negative consequences. The considerations involved in complex scenarios like these are simply too numerous and require such speed that no human could possibly evaluate all the available data to make the safest decision in a split second–but edge computing can.
Using cameras, sensors and a Wireless Private Network, the car detects the presence of the deer and communicates the hazard to nearby vehicles and smart devices, initiating a coordinated response that minimizes risk to all parties. Because of the sheer amount of data processing involved, such actions would be impossible if the information had to travel back and forth between computers thousands of kilometres away. For the system to work, the data must be nearby.
Few understand the concept better than Dennis Hoffman, who leads the Telecom Systems Business for Dell Technologies. As he explains it, edge computing is the ability to run an application close to the point of data creation. “At the end of the day, it really comes down to the ability to capture and process information to make decisions. The closer we are to that physical event, the quicker it is to make and implement an action,” he explains. “It’s where the physical world meets the digital world.”
"At the end of the day, it really comes down to the ability to capture and process information to make decisions."
- Dennis Hoffman, SVP and GM, Telecom Systems Business, Dell Technologies
The role of edge computing in IoT and 5G
Much attention is focused on the fifth generation of wireless network technology, better known as 5G. The high-speed, low latency network makes it possible for technology to operate—with edge computing processing all of the data necessary for the device to consider traffic patterns, pedestrians, weather changes and more. “Edge gives us the ability to run a full computing process: to create, store and analyze data for decision-making,” says Hoffman. “It’s not in a public cloud or private data centre, but right there where the data is actually created.” Today, edge computing is limited but is expected to skyrocket. In just two years, over 90% of new operational processes will be deployed on edge.
“In just two years over 90% of new operational processes will be deployed on edge.”
How does WPN fit in?
While networks like WiFi are sufficient for streaming and day-to-day tasks, lower latency and reliability is needed to power machines of the future. That’s why technology-rich industries like mining are already turning to 5G Wireless Private Networks, known as WPNs. These are essentially dedicated networks designed to handle mission-critical applications. Coupled with edge computing, the possibilities are endless. Aside from increased capabilities, industries will also see immediate benefits in terms of safety and efficiency.
Why the edge computing impact is unpredictable
As Hoffman explains it, the most exciting applications of edge growth are yet to be determined–and that’s the point. “No one could have predicted the outcome of the 4G network when it launched,” he explains, referring to the creation and widespread popularity of ride-share and delivery apps. “But someone was smart enough to consider the capability of the smartphones everyone was carrying and connect them. And a whole disruptive industry trend was born.”
What Hoffman can predict is the focus of 5G. “The prevalent belief is that 5G will be very similar, but really all about business. Today our networks are dominated by connecting people. But it’s shifting to machines.”
“Today our networks are dominated by connecting people. But it’s shifting to machines.”
How business can benefit: Real world applications
One of the major advantages of edge computing is its ability to manage significant quantities of data, a key factor for any business. “The only real, unique competitive advantage is data,” says Hoffman. “Google knows more about people’s searching behavior than anyone on Earth and it's because of their data. Likewise, Facebook knows about what we all like and Uber understands traffic patterns. There’s a digital transformation in every industry and different industries are just at different stages in that journey.”