Schneider Electric is seeing a big drive to bring computing power closer to the edge of networks from companies like mobile network operators and security service providers. This is according to Chetan Mistry, the channel development manager for Anglophone Africa at Schneider Electric.
The fundamental concepts that edge computing are built upon are nothing new, but an evolution based on the ideas of personal computing combined with cloud computing.
Edge computing moves parts of a cloud application and its data closer to the user to improve performance and security. Where cloud services are usually delivered through big data centres, edge computing uses regional data centres and micro data centres at network locations closer to the client.
Mistry said that there is tremendous opportunity for this technology in Africa, as it can help address unique challenges the continent faces.
“In Africa, we are behind the technology curve, but the appetite is massive,” Mistry said.
When a technology becomes available that circumvents the challenges presented by Africa’s geography and relatively sparse population, this appetite manifests as an incredibly high uptake.
“That’s why you see far higher growth in technologies like mobile telecommunications in Africa than in more mature markets.” Here are some way ways, edge computing can help solve Africa’s challenges.
Cheaper faster bandwidth
Edge computing will help drive access to telecommunications services in remote locations, Mistry said, reducing network congestion and the cost of bandwidth.
As a result, it will improving the performance of networks and reduce the price to end users.
The population is growing and the demand for food is rapidly increasing, while water is becoming scarcer every day.
To save the planet’s most critical resources, agriculture is also benefitting from edge computing and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions. Farms are placing sensors in the soil that detect water levels in the soil.
Based on measured weather patterns and the type of crop, water irrigation systems only feed the exact amount of water required for a good harvest. This saves precious water resources and costs for the farmer, while also ensuring the best quality crop.
Electrification is a critical component to Africa’s success, especially since urbanisation is growing at a rapid rate. However, power interruptions have become a daily affair in major cities across Africa.
Africa, along with the rest of the world, is looking to diversify power sources. Utilities have a challenge to manage demand and multi-sourced power to improve availability.
Systems which use edge computing technology can monitor, manage and control a variety of functions within an electric grid’s distribution infrastructure.
These systems can then harness the data from roof-top solar installations, solar farms, smart meters, and the grid to monitor and control the mix of power from its various sources to predict the fluctuating demands.
Traffic is no Jam
Traffic congestion accounts for many lost hours of productivity, and edge computing solutions can monitor, measure and predict traffic patterns and initiate actions to ease jams.
Control systems powered by edge computing solutions may reroute vehicles, or change the timing of traffic lights to reduce, or even eliminate congestion.
Africa is renowned for its wildlife and when poachers put the future of our most revered species at risk, the continent will see a decline in tourism. The combination of drone technology, artificial intelligence, and edge computing is helping game reserves defend against poachers.
For more conventional security such as those at office parks, residential estates and complexes, there will also be adoption of edge computing within their perimeter, Mistry said.
Response times on security services such as facial recognition systems need to be immediate and can’t depend on an active Internet connection.
“That kind of compute can’t happen in the cloud,” Mistry said.
IT systems are becoming increasingly reliant on edge computing, which is also changing the trend of edge computing design, Mistry said.
No longer are these edge networks an after-thought, but rather a critical component to consider for business operations.