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Edge computing, undoubtedly, has the potential to transform the way data is handled, processed and delivered for millions of devices around the world. When successfully implemented, the new architecture can accelerate the adoption of real-time applications, such as video processing and analytics, autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence, among many others. The scope is there for this to be a gamechanger for the urban environment.
But the full realisation of this ambition is seemingly always just around the corner.
That is not to say change has not been coming, albeit slowly. When I spoke to leaders in our industry before the pandemic, it was the technical teams who were most keen, demonstrating the possibilities of ‘edge computing’ but mainly in diagrams and PowerPoint presentations. Today, the commercial people and starting to get involved. There is a growing understanding that there is money to be made here, if only the edge can be harnessed correctly.
What has changed? The rise of mobile gaming?
The early goals of the edge were focused on trying to reduce the long distances data needed to travel to complete a round journey and while this is still the case it has now been joined by the rise of data-hungry real-time applications, like games, that need processing power locally. Here we see the real impetus for the future of the edge.
The commercial case for the edge has always been one of the major stumbling blocks for the technology – everybody is aware of the potential, but how to get capacity installed where it is needed most?
Today, most processing for mobile gaming is done locally, on the device in the hands of the user, but with a wider adoption of edge connectivity, the load can be shared. Yes, it is certainly possible for some of the grunt work to be done on a cloud server – with the
device sending data to be processed and then returned. But these serves are often located quite far away. For something as time-sensitive, and interactive, as gaming, this distance can be prohibitive.
As we roll-out edge capacity in urban environments, the problem is diminished. The technology instead relies on several small data hubs, each of which is deployed in closer physical proximity to the user, instead of one large faraway server. As demand for mobile gaming continues to rise, so will the commercial case for the edge.
Increasing edge capacity will allow for the exploitation of new applications, including Open RAN networks, autonomous transport, analytics and AI. But, for gamers, the future looks especially bright.
Edge connectivity will mean the further development of augmented reality games – think of Pokémon GO, but much, much better. Wearables are another exciting area – from headsets and glasses to vests and gloves, a new sensory frontier is opening ahead of us in the gaming world. With the processing handled nearby, the need for high-end devices will also be diminished, with the same performance available on cheaper machines. This will draw new players into the market. This is a rapidly developing market. According to Statista the mobile gaming sector will be worth US$125 billion this year, growing to US$175 billion by 2026. While gaming can still conjure up images of people sitting in front of laptops and monitors in dark rooms, mobile is now the largest sector of the market, and is led by female players. In total, some 2.3 billion people are expected to be mobile gamers by 2026.
These trends are exciting for advocates of increased connectivity in our cities and towns – once the capacity is installed, the uses for it are endless. At CIN we believe connectivity is no longer a nice-to-have commodity – it has become a critical part of our lives and essential to the socio-economic growth of our communities. Our health, social care, travel, entertainment and businesses not only require it, but are now reliant upon ubiquitous and dependable connectivity.
New digital infrastructure will pave the way for enormous positive transformation in our lives and make a major difference to local economies. The edge has the power to produce detailed analytics and insights into the workings of a city. Access to this real-time information enables automatic changes to be implemented that will have a massive impact on sustainability, efficiencies and productivity.
A city with widespread connectivity is likely to attract investment, new jobs and new services, driving local economic development and improving the lives of residents. Given this tremendous potential, it is my hope the rise of mobile gaming will allow us to unlock the power of the edge, transforming the urban environment for all of us in the coming years.