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Research company Forrester has assessed edge computing and its role in future technologies as part of its newly released study. “The Future of Edge Computing” goes into detail on the potential innovations presented by this type of technology, as well as some of the downsides of employing advanced edge tech.

Future benefits of edge computing

Three important insights brought up by Forrester in the report show what edge computing will be capable of in the future:

  1. Edge computing promises key benefits for software everywhere
  2. Edge innovation will lead to smarter, faster digital experiences everywhere
  3. Edge networks will make us more connected and interdependent

Forrester suggests these advantages will become a reality through workload affinity. With this concept, enterprises will be able to deploy software to whichever place it runs best, whether that be in a data center, in a cloud environment or across different applications all on the same network. The company says that AI/ML, analytics, IoT and container solutions will power these new assets, with systems eventually choosing where they will run based on efficiency.

Some of the benefits touched on by the research company include interconnectedness for devices as linking these systems becomes more of the standard and not a rarity. While right now it may be difficult to see how devices can run both software within the cloud and outside of it, edge is expected to make processes such as these both work seamlessly. One example brought forth in the report relates to how easily connected software in refrigerators, servers in shopping malls or cameras on street corners will run on a public cloud.

Secondly, the emergence of this technology is expected to employ local data when it comes to AI preparing for users’ needs moving forward. AI and real-time insights are one of the most anticipated features of edge computing, especially among telecommunications companies and their executives. Qualcomm has already begun working towards this process, teaming up with startup company Juganu to create smart stop lights in order to identify potentially dangerous traffic situations and change signals based on the data it collects.

Technologies such as 5G, LTE, low-power wireless technologies and software-defined networking are already working towards making edge-to-cloud networks a reality. Composable infrastructure is expected to be able to efficiently deploy distributed software systems as necessary. Accenture and Intel have made this a reality, as the two companies have built new “far edge” network and software capabilities for industries such as hospitality and entertainment.

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Roadblocks to making edge a reality

While the benefits listed all seem remarkable, Forrester does anticipate hurdles to making the world more connected and efficient. One large challenge posed in the study are the ways the emerging technology will affect both trust and enterprises in the future. With a large amount of devices and networks being interconnected, this gives potential new openings to criminals to take advantage of any gaps that arise in cybersecurity. In compounding the issue, companies may be slow to adapt to these changes until many of the kinks are ironed out, especially when considering industries with sensitive data like healthcare. This could potentially slow down the rate at which edge could grow, making the process of connecting everything a slower, more painful one.

Another problem posed is that of sustainability. Carbon emissions from data centers now exceed those of pre-pandemic air travel, and with edge needing additional resources, it could exacerbate the problem even further. As many consumers have said sustainability is an important factor for them to consider when choosing which companies to do business with, this could become a sticking point for those worried about the emissions caused by the additional hardware and electronic waste.

Solutions to the obstacles won’t come immediately

In the short-term, one of the ways businesses can prepare for the coming edge revolution is to begin focusing on sunsetting 3G networks and how that will impact existing connections. Many enterprises are looking to do just that in 2022, so untangling any mess associated with those connections is a must. Another way businesses can plan for edge is to invest in private 5G networks as well as enterprise edge opportunities. Partnering with a company that can provide these private 5G services and increase network security will allow companies to streamline their move towards edge, and help work out the growing pains previously mentioned.

Long-term, sustainability will have to be an issue that is addressed over time. One way businesses can begin making this a reality is by getting buildings to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 as outlined in the Paris climate agreement. Edge is expected to assist urban areas with the reduction of waste and energy consumption, but it won’t be instantaneous. Forrester also mentions precision agriculture as a possible solution, cutting down on the excess use of land and water to do so.

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