The Next Innovations Start at the Edge
From remote fish farms to factory floors, edge computing and 5G hold the key to new sources of intelligence—and revenue.
Sinkaberg Hansen is a major Norwegian seafood business, operating a network of two dozen fish farms throughout the country. The company requires timely, accurate data about the status of its millions of fish, even from remote, thinly staffed farms, and has begun to experiment with a combination of 5G wireless communication and edge cloud computing.
Telenor ASA, a Norwegian multinational telecommunications company, worked with technology partners including Nokia, Intel and Norwegian aquatech company Bluegrove, to develop a solution for a Sinkaberg Hansen fish farm located on the island of Gjerdinga. Using Telenor’s 5G network and other communication solutions, Nokia edge cloud infrastructure powered by Intel, and HD video cameras and video analytics software from Bluegrove, Sinkaberg Hansen is working to stream video of the fish feeding and determine whether they’re healthy.
“Pellets are dropped into the sea and eaten when the fish see them,” says Pål Grønsund, senior research scientist at Telenor. But when the fish are full, uneaten pellets fall to the ocean floor. Bluegrove used video of fish feedings to develop an algorithm, which “detects those pellets from the video shots” and determines when to stop feeding the fish, Grønsund says. Analytics derived from the video feeds could provide significant cost savings. Feeding represents 50% of the fish farm’s costs, and the solution, if deployed across Sinkaberg Hansen’s entire network, could save the company close to $6 million a year. Bluegrove’s analytics software can potentially be used for other purposes in the future, such as counting fish and measuring biomass.
“We’re automating a lot of what we want to do on the fish farm. More than that, we’re also improving food production,” Grønsund says. “I think the concepts around video analytics, monitoring and automation can also be brought into other industries.”
Bringing Data and Computing Together
The cloud and 5G are both compelling technologies that present huge opportunities for businesses. Add edge—localized cloud environments that bring computing power closer to the source of data—and the potential grows dramatically, resulting in innovations like fish monitoring. The combination of a fast 5G wireless network and edge cloud can enable solutions in various industries that would have previously been impossible.
“Edge cloud is about bringing the centralized compute power of the cloud as we know it today to your doorstep,” says Jason Elliott, head of cross-portfolio solutions, partners and ecosystem marketing at Nokia. “It’s about placing servers that do that work closer to the location of the enterprise—so that you can process data much closer to the end user. That reduces the overall amount of time it takes to compute and receive a response.” Edge cloud solutions, such as those powered by 3rd Generation Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors, allow businesses to process data close to its source, and also take advantage of traditional, centralized cloud resources for long-term storage and additional processing power.
Far from being an edge case for data, edge computing is rapidly becoming the norm. “What we are seeing now is that more data is not only being created outside of the cloud, closer to the end users, but it’s also being processed outside of the cloud,” says Renu Navale, vice president and general manager, Smart Edge platforms division, at Intel. “What we build for the edge, all the way from silicon to accelerators to software toolkits and offerings, fully addresses the need for edge-native capabilities and compute-intensive workloads at the edge,” she says. Studies show this is a trend that will continue to increase. According to research from IDC, over 50% of new enterprise IT infrastructure deployed will be at the edge rather than corporate data centers by 2023, up from less than 10% in 2019.
And by combining the speed of 5G and the capabilities of edge, industry experts see an opportunity for transformational growth. “While many companies in the IT and finance sectors have taken advantage of the digital platform economy, others in more physical industries—mining, utilities, manufacturing, transportation, logistics—have not yet been able to,” Elliott says, due to the challenge of reliably and consistently connecting widely dispersed or mobile operations. With 5G solutions, he continues, “we can help enterprises in these physical industries overcome those technology boundaries that have held them back previously.”
Elliott sees 5G edge solutions powering everything from smart semiconductor factories, where sensors can provide real-time data about everything happening on the line, to new safety solutions for mining operations. “Imagine a video analytics system that uses cameras connected over 5G to an edge compute platform that can check whether a worker has entered a hazardous area and could prevent an accident,” he says. “That’s absolutely priceless at the end of the day.”
Partnering for Success
Amol Phadke, managing director and head of global telecom industry solutions at Google Cloud, believes the road to maximizing the potential of 5G empowered with edge computing is, in part, through partnerships. “It would be prohibitively expensive for any single player to start building out their own edge infrastructure,” he says. “Putting those pools of investments together makes a lot of business sense in terms of collaboration.”
In fact, collaboration will be essential to monetizing 5G. “The monetization of the infrastructure becomes a key requirement of the communication service providers, which is why we started collaborating with them two to three years ago,” Phadke says. “Our strategy around edge is to partner with communication service providers (CSP) so that we essentially leverage our footprint, but then put our edge computing infrastructure in a service provider footprint. And that’s when you really get the synergy because then any services we offer on that edge infrastructure obviously will become part of the CSP value chain.”
He continues: “Whatever services get launched on edge are essentially going to be co-developed and co-designed with our service provider clients and customers. So that’s a big motivation for our strategy around collaborating with the CSP.”
“Multiparty collaboration has truly become critical for edge with the complexity and fragmentation it imposes,” Navale says. “From enterprise customers, cloud and communication service providers to infrastructure developers and independent software vendors, we have engagements at every point in the value chain to deliver the 5G edge.”
Elliott sees the same importance in developing such collaborations when creating ecosystems, which would require “developing the partnerships with the application and device providers,” he says. “Combining that with the appropriate level of connectivity to create the right service offering is key for the long-term approach to success.”