Multi-access edge computing (MEC), known by many by its previous name, mobile edge computing, is a network architecture that gives network operators and service providers cloud computing capabilities as well as an IT service environment at the network edge. The concept of MEC has grown increasingly popular over the past few years, with the curiosity of many interested parties snowballing alongside the expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT). In this three-part series of articles on MEC, we’ll look at how multi-access edge computing works, the security challenges it faces and how it can be protected and secured, and how it will be used to improve the networks and services of tomorrow.
Multi-access edge computing (MEC) is looking, for the moment, as if it will feature heavily in the near future and throughout the Fourth Industrial Revolution and beyond. For this reason, it becomes important for us to understand how and where it may be used and for what reason.
In part 2 of this three-part series of articles on MEC, we looked at the security of multi-access edge computing systems and the threats they face. In this article, the third and final part of our multi-access edge computing series, we’ll be taking a look at five ways in which MEC technologies will be used in the not-too-distant future.
Predicting what the future holds for any technologies, let alone those only now seeping into the world outside of their respective realms, can be an extremely difficult task. However, it is this task that we shall attempt now as we start off by taking a look at the role multi-access edge computing plays in driver-less vehicles and connected cars.
1) Driver-less & Connected Cars
Connected and driver-less cars are most likely the most exciting of MEC use cases from a neutral perspective as they involve not one but two young, cutting edge technologies and are currently being trialed all over the world. One of the key essentials for any driver-less vehicle or connected car is the ability to communicate to both other connected vehicles and intelligent transportation systems (ITS) and infrastructure.
In order to achieve this, cloudlets are being used by several service providers to enable real-time communications between connected vehicles, infrastructure, and ITS systems. These can then be used to warn other vehicles of a connected cars presence, send data regarding a hazard or environmental conditions, or even to alert them to the presence of an emergency service vehicle and enable them to take appropriate action.
2) Video Analytics
With the growing use of Big Data driving many of the technological innovations we are seeing today, the use of video analytics within various different industrial and commercial environments has become increasingly common and, with the continued development of improved artificial intelligence and automation systems, could very well become an essential tool in most video-based applications.
MEC video analytics would allow for analytics to be performed, and insights gained, much closer to the source of the data being analysed, allowing for significantly lower latency. Using video analytics has various benefits such as detailed security and surveillance data as well as enabling retailers to better track their customers in-store browsing habits, to name but a few examples.
3) Enhanced Networks
With the availability and robustness of networks needing to be greater and greater, multi-access edge computing will also likely be used to enhance the overall performance of networks in both industrial and enterprise settings as well as other environments such as university campuses and government facilities.
The vast amounts of people connecting to networks in the kinds of examples outlined above will cause high latency issues and result in a poorer-quality connection for all users. Using MEC to combat this would likely become the go-to option for many of the organisations suggested as a much larger number of users would be able to connect simultaneously without these issues.
4) The Internet of Things
The continued expansion of the Internet of Things has been both technologically innovative and a sign of things to come in the not-so-distant future. IoT devices are estimated to number in the billions by the 2020s and their effect on both our business and personal lives can already be felt today.
Within IoT systems, collecting processing and storing the data generated by these devices much closer to its source comes with a variety of benefits and will most likely, in time, allow for more significant steps to be made towards technological feats such as driverless cars and more advanced intelligent transportation systems.
5) Virtual & Augmented Reality
One of the biggest trends to grip both the business world and recreational arena over the past few years has been augmented and virtual reality applications such as Pokémon Go.
Each of these two technologies would require real-time data communication and low-latency, agile networks to function optimally, an area in which multi-access edge computing would be the best solution.
In the future, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that business and organisations will continue to the implementation of augmented and virtual reality tools and services in order to further enhance and virtualize certain business operations. The success of wearable tech such as Microsoft’s HoloLens could drive further investment and development into augmented and virtual reality applications within the workplace and, therefore, require even more advanced MEC systems.