Prior to the global outbreak of Covid-19, edge computing was widely perceived to be one of IT’s hottest new trends. However, the Covid-19 crisis has thrown industries and economies around the world into upheaval, with many businesses being forced to re-evaluate previous IT investment plans – including those that involve edge.

Despite this, investments in edge computing technologies are expected to continue throughout the remainder of 2020, before picking up in 2021. This is because of the benefits edge computing enables, and the broad range of use cases edge computing technologies support. Together with 5G wireless networking and artificial intelligence (AI), edge computing can also help governments and businesses strengthen their digital infrastructures and support post-crisis economic recovery.

Edge computing forecast to grow rapidly

GlobalData’s new Market Opportunity Forecasts for Edge Computing (GlobalData Market Opportunity Forecasts to 2024: Edge Computing) predicts that sales of edge computing infrastructure and services will grow by almost 14% in 2020, and will experience accelerated expansion in the 2021-2024 period. The vertical sectors that will see the strongest growth in its adoption include energy and utilities, healthcare, retail banking and transport and logistics.

By decentralizing compute and other IT resources and positioning them closer to where digital applications and services are consumed, edge computing promises to unlock multiple benefits for businesses and other organizations.

These include the ability to process and use large volumes of data in real time. They also include the potential to offer digital applications that require high levels of performance, and which rely on additional technologies such as AI. Because of its ability to support local, real-time data processing, edge computing is regarded as key to grasping the opportunities associated with the Internet of Things (IoT) – with or without the support of high-bandwidth 5G networking.

Covid-19 has raised the importance of edge computing

In some cases the need for edge has become even more important because of the crisis. For example, the large proportion of the world’s population now relying on online and video communications technologies for homeworking, remote schooling, shopping, entertainment, and staying in contact with others, has increased pressure on data centers and service provider networks and strengthened the business case for leveraging edge computing resources.

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By GlobalData

Other drivers include the accelerated push to automate processes in the manufacturing, retail, and healthcare sectors, which have either been forced to rely on a reduced workforce, or are deliberately trying to minimize human interaction.

Meanwhile, the longer-term drivers of edge remain just as important, and will remain so once the worst of the Covid-19 crisis has passed. The benefits mean that existing uses will, over time, be expanded, developed, and refined by existing users, and adopted by others elsewhere.

New uses will emerge

New uses of edge computing, and particularly those that also involve IoT data and AI processing and analysis, will also emerge. Some of these – including things such as connected autonomous ships and other vehicles – are already being tested and deployed. Others are likely to emerge along with the expansion and proliferation of 5G networks.

Although some 5G deployment plans will see short-to-medium-term delay because of disruptions caused by the crisis, other 5G network deployments will continue as planned. 5G is increasingly viewed as having key to helping with post-crisis economic stimulus efforts. The same can also be said of edge, which promises to open-up new lucrative opportunities for businesses, while also helping them operate in more efficient and adaptable ways.