- 5G and edge computing are poised to change the way workspaces process data.
- Both technologies address the latency issues many workspaces face.
- Spaces can also introduce new ways of working, providing a competitive edge.
The IoT is getting an upgrade. While people are left wondering why they need a smart toilet in the first place, 5G networks and edge computing will introduce a new era of gadgets and applications for savvy workspaces — ones that your members actually want to use.
What is edge computing?
Edge computing is essentially computing that’s done at the edge of a network. In other words, computing that’s done at or very near to the source of the data. This massively reduces the response times — or latency — of your web applications.
Let’s look at an example. If you have a voice-assisted speaker, you may ask it what the weather is like today. The smart speaker must process your speech, send that information to the cloud, where it is processed, finds out the weather information, and pings that data back to your smart speaker.
If all those processes took place in the smart speaker, this would accelerate the response because information does not have to travel across the cloud or to a faraway data centre.
In fact, Amazon is one step ahead of the game and is already rolling out AI-enabled chips to move most of this workload onto the device. As a result, they’ve reportedly realised a 25% improvement in end-to-end latency for some Alexa-based devices.
Edge computing can drive fast digital experiences for everything from video downloads to AI or machine learning or VR/AR technologies, which are ‘the future of work’ according to Facebook.
What’s more, because this data processing is done locally, then the amount of data processed in a centralised or cloud-based location is also reduced. If your space has high bandwidth costs, then the edge could help you reduce your expenditure.
However, there are many cost factors to take into account.
“Realistically, the costs of edge computing can vary wildly, depending on the size and scale of your deployment, the amount of data being collected and processed, and the geographic location of your edge computing deployment,” according to a recent report in ZDNet.
The next-generation 5G network is 200 times faster than 4G, permitting more than 100 times more connected devices. 5G can accommodate one million devices per square kilometre. 4G can only support 2,000.
As 5G continues to roll out, it provides wireless connectivity to devices in remote locations, giving workspace operators the opportunity to open in new areas. Even in places where the internet is available, wireless connectivity is often more economical. This could be a useful capability for satellite offices, for example.
Although 5G and edge computing are essentially independent of each other, their combination packs a powerful punch for your workspace, particularly when it comes to your data processing and storage capabilities.
As more devices connect to the IoT, data can help you digitise your workflows and automate your decision-making capabilities. Thanks to edge computing and 5G, you could realise new data-driven insights and business models in your space. For example, you could provide:
- Proactive facilities: You receive real-time information about the space and optimise it to match current demand in near-real-time. You could automate your HVAC system’s output as your environment changes, for example.
- Space insights: You could use desk-mounted sensors to react in real-time to data about desk usage, with analytics also available about member traffic patterns around your space.
- Security improvements: you could use automated video analysis to monitor video feeds across different locations and receive real-time alerts on suspicious activity.
- Data security: every time you move a piece of data, you increase the risk of it being stolen. By embracing edge computing, you keep your data on-site, reducing many of the data security risks today’s coworking spaces face.
In summary, 5G and edge computing provide flexible workspaces with reduced latency, robust security, potentially lower costs and responsive data collection. They can help flexible workspaces realise the following benefits:
- Reduced latency: Your space’s applications can operate at faster speeds and more efficiently.
- Real-time or fast data processing and analysis: Because your data is processed close to the source, not in the cloud or an external data centre.
- Potential cost savings: You can spend less on your data management solutions for local devices, compared to cloud and data centre networks.
- Less network traffic: With an increasing number of IoT devices, data generation will continue to rise at record rates. Edge computing and 5G connectivity reduce the risk of bottlenecks.