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Edge computing use cases must be driven by business value

Yannis Kalfoglou, an AI and blockchain expert at PA Consulting, discusses edge computing projects.

Read the full TechTarget article here

The article notes that CIOs should think of edge computing as another technology tool and consider how and where it can enable digital initiatives such as enhanced customer engagements, better employee support or more efficient operations in ways that other technology tools can't.

Edge computing enables organizations to collect and analyze data right where it's created and needed, giving them the ability to react in real time without the cost and latency associated with moving data around.

In one example of an edge computing use case, retailers could collect and analyze data while customers are in the stores, allowing the retailers to customize the sales experience in real time. Healthcare providers could reliably process critical-care data instantaneously, thereby driving even more innovative treatments and better outcomes. Hospitality companies could better anticipate what they'll need to better serve each individual customer right at the time of demand. Industrial companies and manufacturers could drive up efficiencies and eliminate even more waste from production and equipment maintenance.

Yannis said that CIOs generally have many of the components that comprise edge computing already in place. A typical organization has plenty of hardware at the ends of its network -- from security cameras to employee and customer smartphones to IoT sensors -- as well as analytics software, AI technology, networking and Wi-Fi.

Yannis adds: "What edge computing does is it takes all of the devices on the edge and makes them more intelligent, efficient and productive. So, at a high level, edge computing is not something that you buy; at the same time, it's not something you don't already have.”

Indeed, the rapid rise in the number of connected devices gives a good indication of how much work is already underway in building out edge computing capacity. That number continues to skyrocket.

Yannis noted that edge computing is more than a collection of the right hardware components. Rather, it's about organizations using those elements to collect, process and act upon data to meet business goals.

He cited one London hospital using edge computing as a case in point. The hospital is using security cameras capable of taking images and processing information about the individuals and actions they see -- data analysis that happens via machine learning software on the cameras themselves. The cameras then use the analysis to alert security about any problems they've been trained to identify.

He continues: "What makes it edge computing is the ability to process data and create inferences on the device itself; otherwise, you just have a device on the edge," noting that vendors themselves are building a new class of devices with microchips, as well as analytics and AI capabilities, to support organizational adoption of edge computing. "CIOs just have to have the right information in place to enable the devices to be smart in what they do."

Not everyone is ready to make that leap, however. Experts said CIOs who haven't yet embraced cloud computing, microservices and other more modern IT elements will have to shed legacy technologies and move away from a hub-and-spoke IT environment first before they start thinking about edge computing use cases.

Yannis adds: "Edge brings a different operational model, a distributed model, and that's something that many organizations aren't prepared for."

As such, many CIOs will have to make some large investments if they plan to embrace edge computing. Most CIOs will have to spend some money to develop edge computing in their organizations. That's where the cost-benefit analysis comes in, to determine whether, where and when edge computing is the right option.

On the other hand, the costs of piecing together edge computing for each individual use case can vary widely, while ongoing service and maintenance costs associated with edge computing deployments remain, for the most part, unknown and undetermined at this time.

Transformative potential

At the same time, executive advisers and technology consultants said CIOs and their C-suite colleagues should recognize that expected ROIs for edge-computing-enabled initiatives are elusive. Edge computing is too new, and there are too few use cases in the works for organizations to benchmark their own proposals.

Thus, organizations need to ask: Where is the potential?

Yannis says: "That goes beyond the technology discussion. That goes into the business model and new opportunities," adding that CIOs and their organizations shouldn't underestimate the potential of edge computing, even as they weigh costs against potential investments.

He concludes: "This is a game changer, some of the use cases with edge computing will be quite transformational."

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