Opportunity on the Edge: Perspective from 5G Open Innovation Lab

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Opportunity on the Edge: Perspective from 5G Open Innovation Lab

By Jim Brisimitzis, Founder of the 5G Open Innovation Lab

According to market research firm Gartner, by 2025 more than 50% of enterprise-managed data will be created and processed outside of the data center or cloud. That is just three years away.

So while edge adoption in the enterprise today is still in its earliest phase with just 10% of data being processed at the edge today, the pace of innovation surrounding edge computing is clearly accelerating at a record pace. The CXOs we speak with from across numerous sectors — agriculture, manufacturing, healthcare, entertainment, transportation and defense — firmly believe that edge is the next big frontier of computing and will be a critical catalyst for digital transformation within their organizations.

It is well recognized amongst IT leaders that cloud computing is close to reaching its break point in serving the massive computing and data management demands of today and tomorrow’s enterprise. Sensors and connected devices are proliferating across every sector. CXOs want to capture and leverage the data generated by these technologies to run their business better and with greater efficiency. To achieve that goal they want real-time access to business insights. And they need to be able to act on that information swiftly.

When data is processed on the edge, the issue of latency is eliminated, allowing enterprises to access and use time-sensitive data with greater effect. Edge computing is particularly valuable for those businesses operating in remote locations (for instance, oil and gas producers or utilities) where there is limited or no connectivity, and for whom data is difficult to gather, analyze and use. What’s more, it’s expected that enterprises, and app builders, will benefit from cost savings resulting from processing significant amounts of data on the edge versus moving it and from public cloud services.

With enterprise appetite for edge computing growing, it is not surprising that more and more app builders are moving to support this enterprise demand with innovative edge services that capture data, process data, make sense of data and allow CXOs to make real-time decisions based on that information. We see this directly within our 5G Open Innovation Lab ecosystem and the startups we attract. We especially see this playing out with use cases such as autonomous vehicles, augmented reality (AR) in the field, and remote command/control; all of which demand ultra-low latencies.

Advancements in technology have drastically lowered the barrier to entry for developers seeking to build apps that run on or at the edge. Very soon we expect to see serverless and container apps running within an hyperscaler environment, operating at the edge, enabled by 4G/5G networks operated by communication service providers (CSPs). Frankly speaking, this is an important inflection point for CSPs deciding if they want to move into blue ocean markets (edge computing and private cellular networking) or remain in red ocean markets of commoditized connectivity. 5G, the cloudification of CSP networks, demand for edge applications, and private cellular networks are all signals of blue ocean opportunity opening up new market spaces and creating new demand for CSP network capabilities.

The intersection of rising enterprise demand and solution provider/app builder supply is exciting for all of us, and in my opinion, arriving at just the right time. I am confident it will advance edge adoption and technology maturity significantly over the next few years.

Let’s look at a few use cases from the energy, healthcare, transportation and public safety sectors illustrating how enterprises and carriers are coming together to work with startups in our ecosystem to exploit emerging edge computing technologies and drive new levels of value:

  • Portland General Electric (PGE), a regional electric utility with over two-million customers across 4,000 square miles of service territory, has partnered with private network as a service provider Expeto to create an innovation lab with technology leaders and industry innovators. Called the Connected Utility Lab, the members – including Google, Intel, the 5G Open Innovation Lab (5G OIL) and InnovationForce – have joined forces to drive PGE’s modernization efforts and support their industry-leading commitment to decarbonize the grid. By harnessing the speed, reach and scale of 5G, the Connected Utility Lab is providing PGE with a secure and controllable environment to explore new technologies, use cases and edge devices that will be key enablers to meet PGE’s commitment of reducing their GHG-emissions by 80% by 2030 for power served to residential customers. At the same time, the Connected Utility Lab is also testing and deploying use cases that support PGE’s goals to mitigate the growing effects of wildfires, connect workers to improve safety in the field and electrify transportation to support a cleaner, greener future.
  • Proximie’s AR platform is helping surgeons with healthcare systems such as HCA Healthcare tap into expert advice from around the world while in surgeries. Proximie is now in production with leading healthcare providers globally supporting thousands of cases annually and improving patient outcomes.
  • At the “Indy Autonomous Challenge @ CES” in early 2022, Halo’s remote-piloted driverless car service made history by serving as the official pace car in the first high-speed, head-to-head autonomous racecar competition at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Operating on T-Mobile’s 5G network in Las Vegas, Halo led race teams out of the pit completing warm-up laps at speeds up to 95 mph before the start of each round. Halo was piloted over T-Mobile’s Ultra Capacity 5G network, leveraging the speed, capacity and reliability of the 5G network to power real-time commands and a live video stream between the driverless car and remote pilot. Halo’s remote operator service tele-operates vehicles to and from customers creating a unique rental experience. The company is planning to ramp up its fleet over the coming year.
  • Pano AI, a San Francisco-based disaster preparedness company, is also teaming with T-Mobile to deploy 5G-connected cameras for detecting active wildfires. The deployment involves Pano customer Portland General Electric (PGE), which went through a pilot program to prove the technology in 2021. Pano AI worked with the utility to identify high-risk areas and utility assets they want to protect around the Portland area. The technology allows the utility to monitor and detect wildfires faster and more reliably than other methods. Currently, Pano is leveraging T-Mobile’s 600 MHz spectrum, but plans call for it to use 2.5 GHz as the carrier builds out that capability.

In the context of the edge as the next frontier of computing, there is an opportunity as well for the CSPs of the world to evolve away from being regarded as a  “dumb pipe” commodity offering toward being a value creator for the enterprise. Just as Microsoft shifted its focus from the delivery of on-premise software to the cloud via Microsoft Azure, and just as Amazon evolved from being an online bookseller to establishing Amazon Web Services as the backbone of the Internet, CSPs have a similar opportunity to transform their business model to become an enterprise value creator — should they wish to see it and seize it. The upside is, without a doubt, significant.

So far that shift remains a theory versus reality.  Once upon a time, Sun Microsystems popularised the phrase, “the network is the computer,” which was recently trademarked by CloudFlare. While a number of CSPs are dabbling with innovation in the field of edge computing, no CSP has yet put its flag in the ground declaring its strategic intent to transform its network and business model. During the early years of Microsoft’s transformation into becoming a cloud juggernaut, Satya Nadella once said, “Our industry does not respect tradition. It only respects innovation.” No more is that true today than the opportunities standing in front of CSPs.

About the author

Jim Brisimitzis has over 22 years of enterprise, channel, and startup experience through companies such as Nortel Networks, PeopleSoft, Oracle and over 13 years at Microsoft. He is now the Founder of the 5G Open Innovation Lab in Seattle, a global ecosystem of innovators, platforms, and industry focused on discovering, accelerating, and promoting transformative innovation to reshape industries.

DISCLAIMER: Guest posts are submitted content. The views expressed in this post are that of the author, and don’t necessarily reflect the views of Edge Industry Review (EdgeIR.com).

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