Vodafone sharpens Edge Innovation Programme focused on distributed, dedicated MEC

UK operator introduces Edge Innovation Programme 2.0 to inspire the creation of new products and services using multi-access edge compute technology and its 5G infrastructure

Vodafone has launched its Edge Innovation Programme 2.0, with the aim of offering more business customers and partners the opportunity to co-create novel services based on multi-access edge compute (MEC) technology.

Alongside its 5G network, Vodafone claims that MEC technology can eradicate the response time of apps, smart devices and cloud services. Offering distributed MEC services to UK businesses since July 2021 – the first in the country – Vodafone has now expanded its portfolio with dedicated MEC, as well as launching mixed reality and visual inspection services in 2022.

The UK operator says that by using both dedicated and distributed MEC technologies, as well as mixed reality and visual inspection capabilities, the Edge Innovation Programme 2.0 will inspire the creation of innovative and futuristic services, products and applications.

Vodafone defines distributed MEC technology as meaning that the application is hosted in the public cloud – in reality, this means a specialised server in Vodafone facilities. The server supports multiple customer workloads and is a more cost-effective system, it says.

By contrast, dedicated MEC technology means the application is hosted on specialist servers deployed on the customer’s premises. To achieve the greatest performance, Vodafone advises that the deployment of dedicated MEC should be paired with a private connectivity offering or network slicing capabilities.

Data collected by devices or apps do not have to traverse the internet to be processed in a centralised cloud – which could be in a datacentre anywhere in the world – but can be processed closer to the customer, said the operator. This means a huge reduction in lag, or latency, and enables near-real-time decision-making and analytics.

It has calculated that when using 4G and hosting applications in traditional datacentres, users could expect to see latency of about 200 milliseconds. However, a combination of 5G and MEC could see latency reduced to less than 10 milliseconds, which is faster than the human brain processes information.

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Vodafone stressed that what is critically important about MEC services is the ability to bring to life ideas that would otherwise have been impossible, such as self-driving vehicles, virtual, augmented and mixed reality, as well as buffer-free gaming and live streaming.

The first Vodafone Edge Innovation Programme was launched in 2021, co-creating new services with companies including Sportable, Aurrigo and InterDigital.

Sportable’s products from embedded and wearable internet of things (IoT) technology are designed to capture every movement on a sporting pitch, delivering real-time insights to fans, coaches, officials and broadcasters. For InterDigital, MEC is seen as being able to offer better support for applications such as “zero-defect” manufacturing, to unlock huge benefits for Industry 4.0 and smart factories. Keyless is a privacy-first biometric authentication solution that speeds up authentication processes for digital payments.

MEC makes real-time multi-factor authentication a reality for all end-users, which means business and consumers can embrace seamless biometric technology. Cambridge-based SME Aurrigo used MEC and Vodafone’s 4G/5G network to improve the safety and performance of its driverless vehicles, as well as enhancing security because data is not exposed to the public internet.

The new programme is open to companies of all sizes, from any industry and for any use case. Participants in the trial can apply to try before they buy MEC services and are also said to be able to benefit from further discounts on additional services following trials, as well as working alongside Vodafone network and technology experts to bring ideas to life.

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