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7 edge computing trends to watch in 2023 and beyond

As edge computing continues to evolve, organizations are trying to bring data closer to the edge. We identify the top trends they should look out for.

The world is brimming with data. And as organizations seek to use that data to make split-second decisions, they need compute power that can keep up.

That's where edge computing comes in.

Edge computing is a distributed information technology architecture that puts data processing, analysis and even intelligence as close as possible to the endpoints that are both generating the data and using the subsequent insights gleaned from that data to make decisions.

Computing at the edge is typically housed in purpose-built devices such as edge gateways. However, that edge computing power can be housed in various devices, including the endpoints themselves. A smartphone, which provides some data processing services even when offline, is a case in point.

Organizations across the board are evolving the technologies that support and surround edge computing, as well as how they're using edge computing technologies. Here are some noteworthy developments in this space to watch in 2023.

1. Spending on edge technology will continue to soar

Market value figures vary widely, but there's consensus among multiple research and analyst reports that spending on edge is going up.

The edge computing market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.6% between 2022 and 2028 to hit an estimated $132.11 million. That's according to a fall 2022 report from ReportLinker.

In announcing the findings, ReportLinker credited multiple factors for the growth, noting that "the deployment of strong internet infrastructures, such as 5G and fiber optic cables, in developed countries, coupled with the rolling out of advanced infrastructures enable the establishment of new use cases, such as Fixed Wireless Access, Massive IoT, and Critical IoT. Such advancements in internet technology are driving individuals and businesses to harness the best out of the existing opportunities and maximize their revenue generation streams."

Furthermore, "businesses across the industries, such as automotive, agriculture, oil & gas, healthcare, and manufacturing, are aware of the importance of IoT, communications, and sensors, which encourages the integration of sensors into devices. Enterprises and service providers perceive IoT as a key enabler of digital transformation and improvements in operational efficiencies. Thus, edge computing plays a key role in IoT deployment across various industries, which drives the edge computing market growth."

Other research firms also predict significant growth -- and put the value significantly higher.

  • Grand View Research estimates the global edge computing market will expand at a CAGR of 38.9% from 2022 to 2030.
  • Precedence Research has estimated the global edge computing market will reach $51.2 billion in 2023 and surpass $116.5 billion by 2030.
  • The "2022 Global Edge Computing Market report" put future growth even higher, estimating the market will hit $90 billion by 2030, driven in part by more integration of AI capabilities at the edge.

Researchers consider the edge market to include hardware -- edge nodes, gateways, sensors and routers -- and endpoint devices such as drones and robots; software; edge-managed platforms; and services.

2. Endpoint devices and the data they generate are skyrocketing

Market and consumer data firm Statista estimated the number of IoT devices worldwide will jump from 15.1 billion in 2023 to 29.4 billion in 2030. IDC put the figures even higher, estimating that by 2025 there will be 55.7 billion IoT devices generating nearly 80 zettabytes of data.

Nearly every industry makes use of endpoint devices and the data they generate.

  • The automotive industry is one of the heaviest users of both endpoint devices and edge computing. For example, autonomous vehicles analyze data from sensors in near real time along the edge to provide the next course of action to self-driving vehicles.
  • Consumer-facing industries, such as retail, want to support more personalized customer experiences by gathering and analyzing endpoint data in real time.
  • Healthcare also relies on edge computing capabilities to process data coming from the myriad IoT devices used in patient care.

Other industries advancing their use of IoT and edge computing capabilities include the following:

  • agriculture, which uses the technology to support more efficient and effective practices in the field;
  • industrial, manufacturing, energy and utilities, which typically look to the technology to monitor equipment and support leaner operations;
  • smart cities and smart buildings, which use the technology to drive efficiencies and smooth everyday interactions such as traffic flow; and
  • transportation and logistics, which use endpoint data and edge computing to optimize routes and supply-chain decisions while minimizing costs, resources and the time it takes to move goods.
Edge computing environment
The objective of edge computing is to put a variety of applications closer to endpoint devices.

3. Edge becomes an increasingly attractive target to threat actors

Threat actors have taken note of the growing number of IoT devices and edge computing use cases, increasingly seeing them as prime targets.

The "AT&T Cybersecurity Insights Report: Securing the Edge" found that 74% of the security, IT and line-of-business leaders they surveyed said the likelihood of their organization being compromised is a 4 or 5, with 5 being very likely.

Respondents also rated ransomware as their highest threat. Other threats, ranked from the highest level of concern after ransomware, are the following:

  • attacks against user/endpoint devices;
  • sniffing attacks against the radio access network;
  • attacks against server/data at the network edge;
  • sniffing attacks against endpoint (user) devices and components;
  • attacks against associated cloud workloads;
  • attacks against applications at the network edge;
  • supply chain attacks;
  • attacks against the 5G core network (telco);
  • physical attacks against technical components such as IoT devices and abandoned assets;
  • DDoS against RAN; and
  • attacks against multi-access edge computing.

4. 5G is on the march

Although edge computing helps reduce latency by putting compute resources close to the endpoints generating data, the speed of 5G combined with edge computing further reduces latency to support use cases where near-real-time processing is critical.

Because 5G creates a bigger, faster pipe to carry data, it can deliver the ultra-low latency required for many applications, including the widespread deployment of autonomous vehicles, advanced healthcare services such as remote telesurgery and the metaverse.

As such, many are cheering the expansion of 5G networks.

Location of edge data center
An edge data center comes between connected IoT devices and the public cloud or a centralized data center.

They're being rewarded, too: According to Omdia, an analyst and consultancy firm, there were a half-billion connections at the end of 2021; the firm predicted that the figure would reach 1.3 billion by the end of 2022. And Omdia said 5G connections are expected to nearly double in 2023, reaching 2 billion connections by year's end; the firm further predicted that connections will reach 4.8 billion by the end of 2026.

Wireless industry trade association 5G Americas commented on the recent 5G expansion, saying that in 2022 "global wireless 5G adoption has reached the rapid acceleration phase."

"We are now out of the opening stages of this generation of wireless cellular technology, as 5G is rapidly getting into the hands of consumers and businesses, who are finding innovative new ways to use mobile connectivity," said Chris Pearson, president of 5G Americas, in a press release responding to the Omdia figures.

5. Telecommunication companies become major players

Despite their 19th-century roots, telecommunications companies have an expanding role in the 21st century evolution of IoT ecosystems.

Telcos recognize that their widespread infrastructure and expansive reach puts them physically close to nearly all potential customers. More importantly, they can use that proximity to offer edge computing equipment, services and supporting components such as Secure Access Service Edge, which bundles network and security-as-a service functions and delivers them as a single cloud service.

The June 2022 "Ericsson Mobility Report" called out this fact, noting that providing edge computing capabilities "represents huge untapped growth potential for service providers."

The report further states that communications service providers (CSPs) are well-positioned to provide such services at an attractive cost. "With the rollout of 5G, CSP mobile networks present an attractive proposition for running demanding enterprise applications close to target customers. A cost analysis of deployment shows that the cost to CSPs to deliver edge compute resources to enterprise customers is nearly half of what it would cost for an enterprise to build its own on-premise infrastructure with similar performance, reliability and data security."

6. 6G is on the horizon

Even as 5G continues to be rolled out and heralded for its low latency and high bandwidth, many are already working to bring 6G to the market.

Short for sixth-generation wireless, 6G networks leverage higher frequencies and higher capacity than 5G and still deliver significantly lower latency.

The coming 6G networks will eventually replace 5G connectivity just as 5G is replacing 4G, which displaced earlier generations.

And just as 5G provided capabilities that boosted edge computing and supported new use cases involving edge computing, 6G will offer new possibilities.

In a post about its August 2022 report on 6G deployment, "Unlocking the Value of 6G with Distributed Intelligence," ABI Research highlighted the role distributed computing will play in the emerging environment: "As 5G's commercial rollout continues, the deployment of distributed computing has become progressively more important. Distributed computing, or 'edge-to-cloud' compute, is the use of disaggregated resources to perform compute operations. But in the 5G era, distributed computing has played a supportive role, while, as enterprises and service providers transition to 6G, distributed computing will be given a leading role."

ABI Research further noted that "a sound distributed computing and artificial intelligence (AI) strategy will underpin successful 6G commercial deployment and enterprise use case enablement."

7. Providers turn to space

Although 5G expansion and the emergence of 6G networks are boosting edge computing capabilities, space could aid edge computing cases even more, according to The Linux Foundation's "2022 State of the Edge" report.

"Thanks to the emerging private space sector, the costs of both space launches and satellite hardware continue to fall, while constellations of satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) promise to make satellite internet connectivity faster, cheaper, and more reliable. That connectivity may be an ideal option for otherwise inaccessible edge locations," the report stated.

It continued: "Large geographical areas in many countries still have no mobile data coverage. Even developed countries with strong coverage have poor network performance in rural areas, because of terrain as well as the distance from the cell mast. Satellite connectivity is a key technology for expanding coverage of wireless communications networks to more remote areas, including oceans (oil rigs, for example, or cruise ships, which nowadays are effectively floating data centers, with huge connectivity needs), for temporary installations for sporting and entertainment events, and for emergency services."

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