I recently attended my son’s graduation. I was one of scores of parents trying to capture and share the moment via my smart phone. My wife strategically placed in one area of the arena and I in another, we texted each other to report my son’s location, trying to document the key moments leading to diploma-in-hand.
It didn’t happen, despite our best efforts. With so many people crammed into one location vying for connectivity and bandwidth, our communication was delayed by roughly 20 minutes. We missed “the” major moment and the joy of sharing, due to latency issues.
Tomorrow’s scenario: A better way
It didn’t have to happen this way. Smart ad-hoc networking could have utilized connectivity and distributed “compute” power amongst devices in the crowd of attendees. Using edge computing to offload low-latency, high-bandwidth tasks to a device cloud, would have eliminated the lag time that frustrates so many of us in remote vacation areas or crowded urban events. It’s a sharing economy model, in which—with permission—devices in a given area that have spare capacity can function as server and client interchangeably.
For communication service providers (CSPs), retailers and other entrepreneurially-minded entities, this type of edge-computing scenario opens new service opportunities—enabling them not only to serve customers better but to monetize data. In the same way ride-sharing services utilize spare commute capacity, or numerous online marketplaces capitalize on spare lodging capacity, savvy companies can bank excess processing power. The processing power in smartphones has doubled year over year for some time now, creating spare compute capacity that potentially can be pooled. This extended Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) provides ad-hoc, device-based cloud networking that could be a cooperative network between the devices being orchestrated or through a master orchestrator.
Regardless of the set-up, bringing smart phones into the sharing economy is a win/win. Consumers eliminate lag times and signal issues, while communication service providers and other businesses solve a customer problem, engendering loyalty and supporting profits. Yet today, barely half (52 percent) of executives Accenture surveyed see more people-centric experiences as a benefit of edge computing.i
The flip side is that traditional edge computing comes at an increased cost. It needs to be managed—and potentially augmented with creative architecture solutions to be truly viable.
Beyond venues, think of the possibilities for emergency relief in disaster recovery situations. When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston in 2017, a device cloud could have allowed citizens and emergency workers to share resources, helping direct those in imminent danger to safety—despite network issues due to the storm.