Mobile Edge Computing

What is Mobile Edge Computing?

Mobile edge computing (MEC), perhaps better known today as multi-access computing, is the near-real-time processing of large amounts of data produced by edge devices and applications closest to where it’s captured—in other words, extending the edge of your edge network infrastructure.

How is mobile edge computing used?

Like edge computing, MEC shortens the distance between where data is produced, collected, and analyzed in the cloud. Processing that’s typically offloaded to the data center is now done virtually. Mobile edge clouds collect, store, and process information close to wireless devices within a cloud network. Proximity to devices, and by extension users, helps drive significant performance enhancements, including higher bandwidth, lower latency, and faster response times and decision-making.

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Multi-access vs. mobile edge computing

Conceptually, at a high level, these terms are often used interchangeably; however, developments in mobile technology forced researchers and technologists to reconsider and expand the definition.

Originally envisioned as a delivery system for widespread cellular network connectivity and performance, MEC focused on mobile networks. Researchers soon found that cell phones weren’t the only edge devices that could benefit from low-latency, high-bandwidth performance. In fact, the surge of connected devices would broaden the definition even further to include other connection points like smart technology, manufacturing, and more.

So, in late 2017, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) Industry Specification Group changed the term to “multi-access computing” to move beyond the telecommunication space and better encapsulate the full potential of edge computing and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Why is mobile edge computing important?

In an increasingly connected world, how data is generated, gathered, and analyzed at the edge—particularly how information is passed between device and the cloud—is unlocking new technologies, services, and experiences at a rapid pace. MEC becomes a versatile tool across a wide range of contexts and industries for both consumers and enterprises.

Security and surveillance: Digital cameras in near constant use generate data. A lot of it. Having MEC as part of a camera network allows facilities to store and process data from many sources, faster. High bandwidth supports high image quality, and reliable compute power can analyze data quickly on-site (instead of at a centralized data center). For example, security cameras at a private warehouse facility can identify potential threats via facial recognition before they cause harm. Or traffic cameras can adapt to traffic conditions remotely rather than redirecting to a control center.

Augmented reality, virtual reality, and gaming: MEC enables remote workers across a variety of industries—including architecture, construction, and engineering—to deploy and use complex 3D renderings in the field with headsets and other mobile devices. Normally, if accessed through a non-distributed data center, these data-heavy renderings would cause too much latency to be useful. But MEC lets teams incorporate 3D designs into their specific workflows and improve collaboration.

Gaming applications work in a similar way. The rise of cloud-based gaming and its associated hardware (e.g., VR headsets, mobile games, streaming services, etc.) has decentralized video games away from the traditional console experience: local hardware, local software. Gamers can now access their favorite games, including data-heavy immersive experiences, on thinner clients with little to no latency.

Autonomous vehicles and robots: Emergent technologies like self-driving cars and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) need robust machine learning to make decisions quickly. If those decisions occur in a faraway data center, seconds could be the difference between avoiding potential collisions or obstacles and escalating disaster. With decisions happening physically close by in real time, a car can identify people, animals, and traffic in its path and navigate around them. Likewise, AMRs can still complete their tasks despite environmental or employee disruptions, helping minimize downtime and maintain productivity.

The ongoing deployment of 5G networks: As the next generation of a global wireless standard, 5G and the innovations that stem from it will rely on MEC to connect machines, objects, devices, and people everywhere. One of the principal selling points of widespread 5G networks is as its high-bandwidth, ultra-reliable low-latency communication (URLLC), making MEC a virtually inseparable part of the conversation. The applications for 5G are as varied as MEC itself, capable of not only consumer-facing technology like video games and entertainment, but also mission-critical operations in education, agriculture, transportation logistics, and healthcare—areas where split-second action is the difference between success and failure, or even life and death.

The attractiveness of 5G connectivity extends to rural regions and other underserved areas, where internet access is not always strong or available. Making broadband access a reliable, consistent reality in these parts of world can create better opportunities for healthcare and education. Rather than driving hours for even basic care, people can use the internet to get the treatment they need, whether that’s primary care or mental health resources. With 5G, students also retain access to learning materials they need to excel in the classroom, as was the case during the pandemic when classrooms shifted to at-home learning.

HPE and mobile edge computing

HPE is the edge-to-cloud company, offering a robust cloud portfolio for storage and compute across any number of edges, colocations, and data centers.

With solutions like the HPE GreenLake edge-to-cloud platform, organizations and enterprises can use their on-premises apps and data virtually for specific demands, helping accelerate innovation, deployment, and business outcomes. In other words, customers gain the simplicity of a public cloud leveraging the privacy, performance, and control of their own environment. And with data and processing no longer confined to the data center, an edge-to-cloud platform gives you maximum availability and minimum latency for your data assets, letting you create and harness your data lakes and extract vital information through analytics and AI.

HPE GreenLake is also available as a service, meaning customers only pay for what they use, so new projects can launch without heavy upfront costs and procurement delays, eliminating both wasteful over-provisioning and the risk of disruptions caused by under-provisioning.