Wireless carrier Verizon recently announced its engineers successfully tested edge computing, putting computing power closer to the user at a network’s edge, on a live 5G network. Doing so cut latency, the amount of time it takes for information to travel in half, which is an important development for applications such as online gaming and video streaming. Low latency will also be critical as the next round of generation wireless experiences come to the forefront.
Verizon engineers installed Multi-access Edge Compute (MEC) equipment and MEC platform software into a network facility closer to the network edge in a new 5G test bed in Houston. This installation decreased how far information needs to travel between a wireless device and the computer infrastructure that the device’s apps are interacting with.
During the 5G test, Verizon engineers used an Automated Intelligence (AI) enabled facial recognition application to identify people. With the MEC equipment that was in the network facility, the app could analyze information right at the edge of the network where the application was being used. Normally, this process would include traveling multiple hops to the closest centralized data center. The end result was engineers successfully identifying the individual twice as fast as when they did the experiment again using the centralized data center. By placing the computing power closer to the user at the network edge significantly decreased the time to deliver the experience, which the Verizon Intelligent Edge Network touts as a key benefit.
“For applications requiring low latency, sending huge quantities of data to and from the centralized cloud is no longer practical,” Adam Koeppe, Verizon’s Senior Vice President for Network Planning, said in a statement. “Data processing and management will need to take place much closer to the user. MEC moves application processing, storage, and management to the Radio Access Network’s edge to deliver the desired low latency experiences, thereby enabling new disruptive technologies. This shift in where the application processing occurs, the inherent capabilities of 5G to move data more efficiently, and our use of millimeter wave spectrum is a game-changer when it comes to the edge computing capabilities we can provide.”
As 5G is deployed, Verizon expects to see a rise in wireless applications that depend heavily on low latency. As an example, Virtual Reality (VR) requires accurate video playback syncing with the user’s physical movements. Any lag can lead to a big difference between what a user sees and experiences, and that difference can cause some people to become dizzy or nauseous when they use VR. So any information for a headset that’s traveling over a network requires low latency to ensure there’s no wait time.
Near-zero latency will be even more critical for technologies like self-driving cars and remote-controlled robotics. Hosting events at venues, industrial automation, retail, gaming and video analytics with AI will also benefit from MEC technology. Lower latency is just one benefit of introducing MEC at the edge of the network, however. Increased reliability, energy efficiency, peak data rates and the ability to process more data through more connected devices are also benefits of introducing MEC technology.
“To achieve near-zero latency, where data moves many times faster than the blink of an eye, having computing functions closer to the user is a vital step,” Koeppe said. “With this test, we have shown how much of an impact the move towards a MEC-based network architecture can make.”
This move to edge computing is a trend that may help CRE add revenue in many of their buildings. This new strategy will create opportunities to have video streaming, cloud operators, wireless carriers and others looking to house their edge computers in excess space and pay for the privilege. In the future Connected, Real Estate will feature further information on edge computing.