As soon as we started outsourcing digital storage and processing over the cloud, our overall computing landscape went a whole lot wider. Mobile computing in the past couple of decades has transformed from merely viable to absolutely inescapable.
In business, our mobile workforce had to lug heavy, high-spec laptops during their business trips, connecting via VPN to tunnel back to their office’s physical servers. They would rack up charges on roaming call minutes while outside of the country. But this changed when businesses shifted to the cloud. Secure cloud services allowed users to not only store and recover their corporate data offsite, but also allowed management and operational systems to be accessible anytime, anywhere. Hosted PBX and various communication apps enabled users to connect through voice, messaging, and video in real-time with pure data over LTE or Wi-Fi, thereby limiting overseas charges.
And yet beyond this level of technological convenience, there are still opportunities for us to go better and faster. The promise of edge computing is to do more than what cloud is already doing well and make it faster through proximity. Connectivity, while it offloads most of the processing and storage, drains a different resource from our devices – namely our batteries. The demand on the device is to remain connected to continuously shuttle data to and from the internet in order to process and stay up to date, and this still requires a lot of power.
Through edge computing, some of the processes and data analysis can be sent to a more peripheral connection known as the “edge”, say a server or a network node, which allows the transfer to be more immediate. This then can be sent back to the device or to the cloud for storage. What this means for the network is, rather than continuously updating both device and cloud, the intermediary or “edge” connection ensures shorter and faster data transmissions, then uploading only when the data has been processed. This way, resource usage is distributed among the connections.
The IoT (Internet of Things) revolution is converting devices, equipment, and locations to become “smart” network points (by adding computing power into formerly static devices, enabling data collection that can be turned into analyzable statistical information). Having them connect to the “edge” or become “edge” connections themselves will allow the data to be aggregated in record time.
With 5G already coming along, the mobile work experience will see more dramatic developments within the decade. Wireless services will be adopted by more businesses across varying industries. Some, by sheer scale, will be using it exclusively for their overall connectivity need. Companies have the choice of staying with cloud computing, which will allow them the full flexibility of being on the go while outsourcing many of their processes via third party systems and servers; or they can decide to explore edge computing to ensure faster data processing and analysis while keeping their power and resource usage to a minimum.
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