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Microsoft, AT&T unveil 5G video analytics with Azure MEC

Microsoft and AT&T have debuted a collaboration on a video analytics solution powered by 5G connectivity on the Azure public multi-access edge compute (MEC) based in Atlanta, Georgia.

The site, which was opened in November 2021, was built to enable low-latency applications at the edge of AT&T’s mobile operator’s network and provide Azure compute services integrated with 5G. A second purpose of the public MEC was to run AI and machine learning networks that require intensive compute and low latency networks.

To showcase new applications on the Azure public MEC that benefit from low latency 5G, the two companies released a video analytics library under the Edge Video Services (EVS). It is described as a Microsoft platform for developing video analytics solutions like smart city security cameras and controlling traffic lights that can be deployed on Azure public MEC. Other features include smart parking, air quality monitoring, and handling customer demands and services in retail stores and restaurants.

Diagram of Azure public MEC and AT&T deployment

As part of a trial, Microsoft and AT&T tested EVS on the Azure public MEC connected to AT&T’s 5G network in Atlanta, using an on-premise edge device managed by Azure IoT Hub and an Azure Kubernetes cluster. The two companies demonstrated EVS’s split architecture with lightweight execution at the on-premises edge by transferring 230 megabytes of data over the 5G link out of the on-premise edge over 24 hours. If all the encoded video was transferred out, it would have required 9.5 gigabytes of data to be sent. Overall, the result showed a 42-fold reduction in network utilization.

EVS integrates the Microsoft 5G hierarchy of intelligent components including Azure Percept devices, Azure private MEC, and Azure public MEC. It also folds in an inter-edge orchestrator, network monitoring, and dynamic resource allocation. EVS is available for on-premises edge devices on a GitHub repository.

In April, Microsoft and AT&T previewed some current and future uses of its MEC and 5G capabilities, and Microsoft partnered with Singtel to launch enterprise MEC in Asia. Competitors in the 5G MEC field include joint tech and telecom partnerships between Dell and SK Telecom, and Amazon Web Services and Bell.

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