The telecommunications industry has undergone massive change since mobile phones were first released to the public in the 1980s. From the release of text messaging with 2G, to mobile internet access with 3G, and finally, highspeed streaming capabilities with 4G/LTE, new innovations are always right around the corner.
5G will not disappoint, bringing faster speeds, more capacity, lower latency, a higher spectrum bandwidth, and a more capable unified platform allowing for new services such as mission-critical communications and the massive proliferation of IoT devices.
However, there lies one major roadblock before 5G technology completely transforms the telecommunications space. Currently, all processing of data must be done either in the cloud or at a central database. This has worked fine in the past, but with 5G promising a 100x increase in traffic capacity and enabling transformational new technologies such as immersive AR/VR experiences and real-time healthcare monitoring, a more modern data processing approach is an absolute necessity.
This is where Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC) can step in and take the reigns. Instead of having to send data elsewhere for processing, everything can be done locally on edge devices. In this article, we discuss the four major areas of need for the successful rollout of the 5G network and how MEC technology addresses those issues as well as some 5G MEC application examples.
MEC Technology Solves Challenges With 5G Rollout
Distributed computing is extremely important for 5G with so much data being both processed and sent to and from end-user devices, a traditional architecture would quickly crumble under the immense data load.
MEC allows for the seamless transfer/sharing of processing power either between edge devices or between an edge device and the cloud. This makes it possible to have more critical application components running as close to the source of data as possible while less critical components do their processing elsewhere, ultimately leading to massive reductions in latency.
With enormous aspirations for what 5G is going to enable there is no doubt that scalability is one of the top concerns for developers of next-generation applications. Whether the application starts out small or large, it is inevitably going to grow over time in terms of the number of end-users, the geographic area it supports, and the volume of data flowing through the system.
MEC technology ensures that the system does not get overwhelmed and fail due to too much data going in and out. Through the use of intelligent routing of processing power between system components, MEC makes it much easier to evolve an application over time to respond to ever-changing requirements. Utilizing an event-driven architecture makes this process much more straightforward, more on this below.
While not necessarily a requirement for 5G, event-driven architecture (EDA) makes the most sense since one of the major goals of 5G is to decrease response times to mission-critical events. Such real-time activity is always best implemented as an event-driven system.
MEC and EDA go hand in hand. All the independent edge devices that make up a 5G application must have as straightforward a way as possible to process and relay streaming data to end-users. The combination of EDA and MEC streamlines processing by using events to trigger application responses instead of relying on database calls. EDA also allows for direct peer-to-peer communication between edge nodes in a loosely coupled environment. This is essential for application flexibility as the entire system does not need to be updated due to a change in one particular component.
5G services have the interesting property that many devices, whether they are smartphones or IoT devices, are mobile. The system logic the devices are interacting with must therefore be able to move along with the devices as they move in space throughout the 5G network.
MEC is perfectly suited to provide the infrastructure necessary for devices in motion. As a device moves throughout the network and out of range of the current MEC node it is connected to, a seamless transition to the next closest node is facilitated. This ensures that no matter where you are located within the network the same level of connectivity/speed is provided. For what this looks like in the real world see the Ambulance application example below.
5G MEC Application Examples
Healthcare is perhaps one of the most important use cases that the combination of MEC and 5G can address. A MEC-enabled ambulance can relay the status of a patient directly to doctors while en route to the hospital, allowing for doctors to be better prepared when the patient arrives. As the ambulance moves through the city it is picked up by the closes MEC node to ensure the connection is consistent and not lost.
If there is one thing sports love, it’s data. Whether it be about a specific athlete or an entire league, more data helps teams, athletes, and fans to make more informed decisions, enable real-time visibility into performance, and ultimately makes for a more engaging sporting experience.
Having more accurate and faster data is extremely helpful to the teams/athletes themselves. Take Formula 1 for example, when the outcome of a race can be decided by fractions of a second any advantage teams can get over their rivals matters. Adding edge devices to various parts of the car and/or race circuit can provide a huge advantage by giving teams access to by the millisecond data.
With so much going on at any one point in time, a stadium is a perfect environment to deploy a 5G MEC network. Datapoints from different places around the stadium (such as restaurants, bathrooms, security cameras, ticketing booths, etc.) can be correlated to provide both attendees and event staff a real-time view into stadium happenings.
This could be especially useful in determining which bathroom/restaurants are currently the least busy, assisting security to locate a fight between rival fans, or managing inventory for stadium stores and facilities in real time.
One Integrated Platform is a Must Have
To most effectively and efficiently leverage MEC technology to take full advantage of what 5G brings to the table, it is paramount to have a single integrated development environment. Without this, even with the massive decreases in latency and more efficient means to scale applications that MEC provides, it is near impossible to keep all application components organized and running.
Vantiq CTO, Paul Butterworth lays out this issue in much greater detail and explains how the Vantiq platform addresses this need in our whitepaper, Distributed MEC Applications with Vantiq. Learn more by downloading it for free today.