Cloud computing unlocked the power of many technologies; soon, Edge Intelligence and IoT will make the benefits come full circle.

As Asia heads into the next decade, socio-economic factors will propel the region even further into the spotlight. But if Asia is to truly maximize its value to global trade and cement its status as the center of the world economy for the twenty-first century, ensuring it remains an innovator and pioneer in the field of technology will be a key priority. So, what trends will define Asia over the coming decade?

Life at the Edge 

Get ready for life at the edge. If you thought the pace of innovation, transformation and disruption over the past five to 10 years has been relentless,  buckle up, because things are about to really speed up. The new decade will see us all living life at the edge, and the biggest impact for enterprises will come from data at the ‘edge’.   

Edge computing centers are now running mission critical applications remotely and away from the data center. Traditionally, the majority of data is captured locally and then carried back to a central data center for processing. However, this requires a tremendous amount of data flow to, and from the cloud. As billions of devices continue to be connected to the internet, using the cloud as a single, centralized data centre is no longer practical or sustainable. The data increase alone will result in bottlenecks and slow networks. In fact, only 1% of the traffic returns to the data center, a massively reduced requirement for cloud computational power.

Edge computing turns this process on its head. The data is processed and analysed on the device or sensor and therefore reduces the amount of data flow to the cloud. This reduces cost, physical footprint and power consumption at the center, and response time, or latency, at the device. 

Reduced latency or time delay is vital for a number of mission critical applications. Autonomous vehicles are the simplest example—the processing time between a moving car and a traffic light sensor can literally be a matter of life and death. 

By improving the management of data flow, edge computing’s prominence will coincide with the dramatic rise in the quantity of data and the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT device explosion has some analysts predicting over USD$2 trillion in benefits over the coming decade, and much of it as a result of the increased speed and bandwidth of 5G. 

More devices mean more sensors and much, much more data. It is this that will drive life at the edge. 

Take the mining sector for example. Extraction is becoming more complicated and perilous as operators are forced to look deeper or extend into even more remote and inhospitable regions for the ores and minerals our modern lifestyles and businesses require. 

This is where industrial IoT will be called on to provide solutions with sensors above and below ground at vast, harsh, remote sites to increase security, efficiency, productivity and protect life. 

  • Health and safety: Personnel tracking, alarms, and health monitoring. Above- and below-ground sensors to identify atmospheric conditions, unstable structures and air quality will help reduce the risk of structural collapse or other mining accidents. 
  • Staff and site security: Geolocation sensors for remote assets help prevent loss and theft, while ensuring the optimum use of assets and personnel. Remote CCTV also provide real-time monitoring for added vigilance.
  • Efficiency & productivity: Predictive maintenance sensors and Artificial Intelligence (AI) on equipment reduce system downtime, which translates to huge savings, given the cost involved in service and repair in remote and harsh conditions. This will be even more critical as more sites rely on off-grid power to run the operations, security and safety equipment and processes—a true mission critical application.

Many sites are also automating their processes and transportation, once again relying on data at the edge to ensure uninterrupted, efficient and safe real-time operations.

While all of these sensors provide discrete results, it is the combination of them via an interoperable hybrid cloud platform that drives true value. 

AI takes the strain 

The increase in edge computing will also fuel another ubiquitous technology: AI. Until now, AI has been used primarily for efficiencies and predictive analysis, especially in relation to the data center itself. AI apps are thriving following breakthroughs in machine learning and deep learning as enterprises shift away from traditional hardware architectures. 

The quantity of data, generated at the network edge, puts great demands on data processing and structural optimization. There is a strong requirement to integrate edge computing and AI, which has given birth to the term ‘Edge Intelligence’. 

AI at the edge transforms smart machines into intelligent machines; information into actionable insight. AI, combined with greater local sensor data availability, also provides for intelligent IoT management.

A combination of edge computing and AI will help drive the data-centric enterprises of the future, but how will they maximize value for the business? 

Towards a hybrid world

Of course, the cloud will play a key role in this ecosystem. Pulling all the insight intelligence will be made possible as enterprises turn to hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) to coordinate and capture data at the source of creation, specifically to support high-performance use cases, such as AI. 

HCI implementation and AI at the edge miniaturize computing, since HCI allows for technology to operate within a smaller hardware design. By 2020, it is expected that 80% of all devices will have an AI feature. 

While the cloud has provided AI with the platform to widen its availability on nearly every technological device, the combination of HCI and edge computing will give AI the tools to truly evolve. As the edge sensors capture and process the data, AI analyzes it. However, the real value from an enterprise is not in the data from a single sensor, but in combining data sets from multiple devices to uncover patterns that can be used to predict future performance or issues. This is where AI, the edge and hybrid cloud come into their own. 

This confluence of technologies is accelerating the adoption and capabilities of all technologies as they drive value and insight to new levels, while the hybrid cloud provides the environment for AI and edge computing to grow. 

The rise of the intelligent enterprise and nation

This brings us to the enterprise itself. Smart businesses are not new. For some time now, enterprises have been harnessing big data and the latest technologies to improve efficiencies and reduce cost. However, many of these initiatives have simply been project based—not enterprise wide. This will all change. 

What will also change is that the technologies will expand beyond improving efficiencies and reducing cost—they will start to identify opportunities and value for the business and turn it into an intelligent enterprise. Such intelligent enterprises will harness the combined capabilities of edge, AI, automation and the cohesion and interoperability provided by hybrid cloud. These self-learning, flexible and self-determining systems will learn and grow.  

Businesses will become flexible and self-determining, and adopt next-generation infrastructure to help realign their operations, personnel, business and even business models. They will begin to see, analyze and utilize all their data, wherever it sits or whatever it runs on.

Until recently, trying to get clear visibility and intelligence from every aspect of the business has proved elusive. The increased adoption of hybrid cloud, the data provided from the edge, and the advances of AI, will combine to add granular detail to the organization, paving the way for real time, comprehensive, and actionable intelligence. Such business intelligence and sophistication will be needed to align with the ever-changing preferences of customers and the mandate to thrive in a constantly-changing world. 

What lies in the decade ahead?

In time to come, more technologies and platforms will be deployed in a hybrid cloud environment. Yet, managing data across an array of technologies will be challenging. Even more so, will be the ability to extract value from the data these technologies generate. 

Clearly, there is some way to turn data into valuable information. However, over the next decade, we will see the beginning of enterprises achieving technological and operational transformation through advanced analytics, machine learning and AI capabilities. This will allow them to extract value and insight to form the basis on which to grow. 

With IoT and AI set to thrive over the next few years, data volumes will only increase. To become an intelligent enterprise means tapping into a variety of structured and unstructured data to produce meaningful insights that will drive autonomy, innovation and importantly, inform business strategy too. Data and its use in intelligent decision-making will be one of the critical goals for Asian organizations now and in future to maximize value.