5G and edge computing have the potential to change the way businesses operate and the way consumers engage with them. From advances in media and entertainment to improvements in manufacturing and retail, these technologies can help businesses boost efficiency and provide more satisfying customer experiences. The two technologies are still in their early stages of adoption, however, and many businesses may not be sure how best to integrate them into their long-term strategy.
For a recent Fast Company virtual panel, Verizon and Amazon Web Services (AWS) brought together experts to discuss how 5G and edge computing are transforming businesses both large and small. These are the key takeaways.
1. Together, 5G and edge computing are enabling new innovations.
4G has been the network standard since around 2008. Its higher performance enabled an explosion of new applications, including streaming videos, gaming applications, and disruptive platforms like Uber. The promise of a new network with even higher performance capabilities has been with us for several years, but it’s only recently that 5G has started to become standardized. Now that it’s here, its immense promise can begin to be fully realized. “5G is a transformational technology that offers improvement in a variety of performance metrics, including connectivity, latency, and throughput,” says George Elissaios, general manager and director of product management at AWS.
Edge computing is a type of computing that complements 5G to make services even faster and more reliable. It builds on the flexibility enabled by cloud computing, which has become the norm over the past decade, and works by shifting computing services closer to the people who use them. “Edge computing offers the same powerful computing storage and networking services as the cloud, but in more places and closer to end users,” Elissaios says. Together, 5G and edge computing are enabling a new wave of applications requiring ultra-high data speed, higher reliability, and massive network capacity.
2. These technologies improve both efficiency and customer experience.
A variety of businesses are benefiting from the marriage of these 5G and edge technologies. For example, YBVR, a virtual reality company, is using Wavelength, a collaboration between AWS and Verizon that combines 5G and edge computing, to dramatically improve end-user experiences. Higher throughput and lower latency allow YBVR to deliver immersive experiences in a more reliable way. Another Wavelength user, Zixi, is using 5G and edge computing to stream live events using high definition 5G cameras that send images to 5G mobile devices with virtually no delay.
Srini Kalapala, vice president of global technology strategy and network cloud at Verizon, points out that 5G and edge computing also has the power to drive efficiency in factory settings. As factories become more digitized and automated, communication between various devices, cameras, robots, and employees must be instantaneous and extremely reliable. “When you’re running a factory, the tolerance for failure is very low, because if something goes out, it’s going to take a long time to recover,” Kalapala says. “It’s not like a consumer application—like watching a movie—where, if it doesn’t work, it’s not going to interfere with production.”
3. The barrier to entry is low.
One of the main appeals of 5G and edge computing is its ease of adoption. For businesses that currently rely on a 4G network and cloud computing, no new infrastructure is required. “We strive to keep the experience the same for our customers,” Elissaios says. “They can use the same hardware, the same services, and same APIs [application programming interfaces] they already know and love. That means that smaller companies with more limited resources aren’t shut out of the enormous potential of these technologies.”
Once 5G and edge computing are in place, businesses can start experimenting immediately with new applications or improvements to existing ones. One Wavelength customer, a designer of video delivery components, used its new capabilities to eliminate buffering from the customer experience. “With 5G and edge computing, it requires absolutely no capital cost to begin experimenting,” Kalapala says.
4. The adoption of 5G and edge computing can deliver short- and long-term returns.
Because the initial investment is low, businesses that adopt 5G and edge computing can begin to see cost benefits within a relatively short timeframe. “You can use 5G instead of satellite communications to drop down your data transfer costs,” Elissaios says. “Or you can process data locally so you have no data transfer costs at all.”
More importantly, these technologies also have the capacity to generate entirely new revenue streams. New applications or improvements to old ones can drive customer engagement over short- and long- term horizons. Meanwhile, high customer engagement with those products can lead to further revenue boosts—and potential avenues for growth. “When you’re creating new applications that weren’t possible before,” Elissaios adds, “you’re really creating new business for the long term.”