The IoT (Internet of Things) is driving new compute-intensive applications, and networks must be able to keep up. In sectors like manufacturing, 5G is a gateway to new possibilities—faster speeds and lower latencies, the ability to collect more data and leverage it better, and, as it is also a platform for companies’ own innovation, the list can be as long as an innovator’s imagination.

According to Allied Market Research, the market for 5G technology will reach $5.54 billion in 2020, and, from there, it will explode. The research firm predicts a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 122.3% between 2020 and 2026, with the market value projection at almost $668 billion by 2026. Industries like manufacturing, retail, healthcare, and transportation will benefit from the coming of 5G.

AT&T Business says the forthcoming 5G revolution will bring ultra-low latency, enhanced capacity and ultra-high speeds, massive device connectivity, and data-driven insights. In manufacturing in particular, 5G will support intelligent infrastructure, AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality), metrology (the technology behind quality-assurance processes) and non-contact metrology, digital twin technology, cost savings, and global integration.

This all sounds great, but organizations may not be ready for 5G. Is there an option to address latency in the meantime even without 5G? Businesses may want to consider MEC (Multi-access Edge Computing). Juniper Networks describes MEC as moving the computing of traffic and services from a centralized cloud to the edge of the network and, therefore, closer to the customer. This can reduce latency and deliver on the promise of near “realtime” performance, especially for high-bandwidth applications. In fact, Research and Markets says in cellular networks, edge computing via MEC is “virtually essential” for 5G, because MEC facilitates optimization of 5G network resources.

Consider a real-life example in manufacturing. Today’s manufacturers want to leverage video technology to detect errors and defects automatically and in near real-time. Latency must be at very low to achieve maximum value from this technology, but standard network architecture often struggles to handle this type of high-resolution video. A MEC solution can help. Video is one of the key drivers of edge computing via MEC, along with location tracking services and AR, which are increasingly being used in a range of verticals. In another use-case scenario, connected vehicles that rely on near real-time situational-awareness types of information and the ability to provide feedback to the driver to help guide decisions and reactions benefits from edge computing and the low latency it delivers.

ETSI, a standards organization, supports a MEC initiative—an ISG (Industry Specification Group) that aims to create a standardized, open environment to enable integration across multiple vendors and MEC platforms. To help fuel this emerging ecosystem, ETSI is calling for players in the value chain to participate in the ISG, to share their best practices, and to demonstrate MEC use cases and proofs of concepts.

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