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Will Multi-access Edge Computing actually MEC a difference to me?

01 Dec 2020
Jennifer Gill Didoni

Jennifer Gill Didoni

Head of Cloud Products & Portfolio, Vodafone Business

Technology is changing our world faster than ever and the Internet of Things (IoT) is at the forefront.

It is predicted that by 2030 around 50 billion connected devices, such as smart cameras, will be in use around the world.

The intelligence and impact of these cameras, and IoT devices in general, depends on a few things.  The ability of the device to capture what’s going on in the world around it, whether the artificial intelligence powered application can interpret information from the device and react in real time, the cloud that this application runs on and the capacity and responsiveness of the network.

This means MEC will become an essential part of the IT infrastructure, thanks to its power to change how quickly we can bring data to the cloud.

But many businesses are still unsure what it is and how it works.

What is MEC?

MEC stands for multi-access edge computing.

It offers IT and cloud services from the “edge” of the network, combining the agility of the public cloud with the high responsiveness of on-premise or on device compute. This brings the data storage and processing closer to the user and the devices, rather than relying on a central location that could be many miles away.

For example, a police officer could wear a video camera that streams in real-time and is able to send instantaneous alerts to help with accident prevention, crowd monitoring or public safety.

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By processing most data in a MEC cloud, businesses no longer need to invest in a data centre or maintain it, and data is more secure as there is less opportunity for it to be intercepted.

The biggest advantage though is latency, or responsiveness.

Because data doesn’t have to travel as far, there is a quicker response time. Much quicker in fact.

When milliseconds matter

So, how quick are we talking?

A response time of 100 milliseconds is perceived as instantaneous. MEC brings that down to 10 milliseconds between the base station and the cloud, and in some cases, when dedicated to a single site, even 1 millisecond.

This opens up a world of possibility for new applications such as autonomous vehicles, smart robots and smart manufacturing equipment. Not to mention, a more immersive and realistic graphic experience when it comes to virtual and augmented reality.

If you’ve ever been gaming and started to suffer motion sickness, that’s usually because you’re hovering around 30-40 milliseconds.

It’s the reliable connectivity paired with real-time response that is the game-changer here, especially when you consider mission-critical applications.

Imagine that you are in a self-driving car when a pedestrian steps into the road in front of you. The vehicle needs to react immediately and apply the brakes to avoid colliding with the person. Any delay could cause a life-threatening incident.

Similarly in a factory, autonomous machinery must be able to respond straight away to ensure worker safety.

MEC is about delivering better outcomes where milliseconds matter.

Dedicated vs Distributed

There are two different types of MEC.

The first is Dedicated MEC. Great for remote locations that are hard to connect, this suits industries such as mining, heavy goods and oil and gas; or the optimised factory example I just touched on.

It is also good for tasks that require an extremely low response time, such as live remote-operated surgery.

This is because it’s built solely with your business in mind. Deployed at site, it bundles together edge computing with a mobile private network (MPN), providing secure, dedicated connectivity and computing for your organisation.

Distributed MEC, on the other hand, supports multiple businesses and brings together the power of the cloud with a public 4G or 5G network.

This type works well for solutions that need to be deployed across various sites and is especially useful when moving assets need to be connected and analyse data in a matter of milliseconds. Uses include video analytics, real-time asset inspection and drones, as well as immersive experiences in retail, events, and tourism.

In the emergency services, Distributed MEC will mean paramedics can video call medical staff at the hospital while on route. With a greater understanding of the emergencies coming in, doctors can better prepare for arrivals.

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Business benefits, beyond speed

Connected data services are the north star of the modern enterprise. When cloud, connectivity and data work together, businesses have the tools to become more adaptive and intelligent; qualities that have seen some weather the turbulence of 2020 better than others.

In the future, as more and more businesses move decision making to the edge, information and machines will connect and communicate with each other without us being aware at all. Workers can then spend more time focussing on strategy and less time on maintaining the daily tasks.

Ready to find out more? Learn how MEC can make a difference to your business today and prepare you for the demands of tomorrow.
 

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