Edge computing drives business innovation

Intel research identifies edge computing as a critical factor that businesses must harness to navigate and understand data now and into the future

As technology use has grown exponentially during the pandemic, generating unprecedented volumes of critical business data, businesses are turning to the edge to help accelerate growth and drive business transformation, a survey from Intel has revealed.

The report, The edge outlook: the now, the new and the next of edge computing, made the case that with the edge set to transform every aspect of life and business, organisations must embrace collaboration and take advantage of ecosystems that allow them to capitalise on all its opportunities.

It found that the rate at which the world is changing is exacerbated by the pandemic, climate crisis and rising sociopolitical tensions. Alongside this, reliance on data is soaring, with trillions of minutes processed on video platforms each month.

Intel said businesses need this data readily available to drive real-time innovation. And while data will be central to the digital transformation of many businesses, many organisations face very real data processing challenges, such as the impracticality of sending the sheer volume of data now being created back to the cloud for processing because of latency issues.

This data explosion has sparked urgency among businesses looking to maximise their use of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), edge computing and 5G communications. This is where edge computing can play a critical role in driving efficiencies and underpinning the future growth of business, said Intel.

It pointed out that business leaders are waking up to the infrastructure demands of these technologies and the role that edge computing can play in driving competitive advantage via accelerated digital transformation. The edge is where businesses can turn ambitious plans into reality, said Intel.

The survey found that businesses are realising that the edge is integral to unlocking future innovations, with 76% of respondents indicated that identifying “the ideal location” for data process was a challenge.

Looking at key verticals, the study noted that data analysed at the edge corrects massive amounts of inventory distortion, while making supply chains and product development incredibly efficient. Intel said the edge is providing retailers with real-time consumer behaviour analysis, empowering them to deliver more personalised experiences.

Indeed, the company said its customer WonderStore’s shop window conversion rate had improved by nearly 17% since deploying edge technologies, achieved by using visual sensors and real-time analysis to customise store experiences based on customers’ fashion choices, sentiment and dwell time.

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Key industrial edge applications, including AI-based robotics and machine vision, are also being used to validate features and check for defects, helping to deliver the highest-quality product possible. Intel also observed that such edge deployments have helped its customer Audi to boost weld inspection speed by 100 times with 18ms of latency. Also, labour costs are said to be down 30-50% at its site in Neckarsulm, Germany, one of the company’s two principal assembly plants.

Edge computing is also helping to deliver a higher quality of care and clinical efficiency in healthcare by enabling frequent patient monitoring and data collection, integration with electronic health records and AI-powered patient data analysis, said the report. Deep-learning inference is used in image-based diagnostics to speed the detection of health issues and save lives. With edge technology, Philips managed to speed CT scan imaging by 188 times without needing to add hardware acceleration.

Edge in telecoms was found to be driving network and operational efficiency, with machine learning helping operators to increase efficiency to meet rising service level expectations while reducing costs. Intel said that with AI and analytics-based engines, operators are able to intelligently manage 5G networks to achieve key network KPIs, network automation, energy savings and operational flexibility to serve a wide variety of 5G and edge use cases.

Intel recently helped Japan’s Rakuten Mobile develop the world’s first container-based, fully cloud-native network. It is using edge datacentres to provide rapid response times for applications and rich media content – enabling its mobile network to support immersive, multi-sensory experiences for customers.  

Commenting on the report, digital pioneer and AI scientist Inma Martinez said businesses can no longer afford to ignore the edge. “Data has always been a cornerstone of civilisation, even going back to the Bronze Age,” she said. “The edge makes possible a world where, all of a sudden, every single object has the potentiality for information – information that can be extracted and used in real time.”

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