The transformative nature of multi-access edge computing (MEC) is not yet realized, but it is ready to be. While mass 5G deployments are still years away, MEC can change mobile networks and industries now. From agriculture to manufacturing, gaming to automotive, there are substantial benefits to be realized by placing critical computing functions near the network edge. Most importantly, from this location, it is possible to speed communication and response time of services that use the network.
(video via: https://youtu.be/bisvLMTADMQ)
Ever see a starling murmuration? It’s really a sight to behold. One moment a flock of birds are flying together; the next, they quickly and effortlessly shift to take on a completely new form. It’s not unlike what we’re seeing when it comes to MEC’s capabilities. It’s ready to help the network bend and flex and to be something more than it appears.
MEC has become synonymous with ongoing pursuits like network efficiency and cost savings. These are always important, but the investments required to move the needle in these areas must be supported by a great business case. In our recent conversations with operators, we’ve focused in on use cases with the greatest potential to transform industries.
Farming soars to new heights
Consider the farmer who is losing a portion of her crop every year because there aren’t enough workers on hand to catch diseased or insect-infested plants before it’s too late. But this farmer just deployed several drones that can take video of thousands of acres daily, scanning the video images to detect fungus and pests to send notifications in real-time. The farm workers can spray preventatively as needed while the farmer saves on labor costs and materials since she’s no longer bulk spraying. She’s saving more of her crop and that increases earnings.
This can be powered by MEC, eliminating the need to carry dozens of video streams back to a data center. With MEC video processing, the farmer’s business is transformed. She never even needs to know that MEC was involved. She knows her mobile service is providing services she needs.
Giving vehicles a better view of the road ahead
As more connected cars hit the streets, they will need to share valuable information with other vehicles to save lives, time and fuel. Some examples of this include the ability for vehicles to communicate with each other about critical information like the speed of cars ahead or an accident recorded by another vehicle on the road. This communications stream can also extend to highway infrastructure, such as “smart” cones and signs that alert drivers even before they’re in sight.
Auto manufacturers also want infrastructure so they can share video feeds in real-time between vehicles. In an environment where the situation changes moment to moment, near real-time data exchange is important. There is no time for video to be transmitted via the network core and back out to vehicles – also that would be terribly inefficient. Instead, the traffic must be bridged at the network edge from one car to another in a location connected through neighboring stations at radio aggregation points.
Mobile gaming that feels just like home
MEC is the only technology currently capable of making gaming better and liberating processor-intensive gaming from only expensive home consoles to deliver that same power and experience out of the home. At Mobile World Congress 2018, Vasona demonstrated how the latest version of Doom could be played in real-time without hiccups or stalls via a congested LTE network by using a MEC process called Edge Breakout. Putting that kind of power in the cloud with accessibility virtually everywhere is a literal game changer.
Teaching 4G new tricks
Major evolutions in this industry take a long time. As operators take preliminary steps to prepare for 5G, they can help manage current challenges like unlimited data wars, insatiable data demands and flattening revenues.
MEC can teach 4G networks new tricks that power transformation on the path to 5G. It means bringing some of what’s promised in the future to networks today. And it’s this technology that will power farm drones, smarter autonomous vehicles mobile gaming and more, and of course, the business cases that support them.
Most importantly, once we reimagine what the mobile network can look like, the paths to new revenues open wide.