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The Future of Entertainment Is Edge Computing – Here’s why
Driven by strategically located data centers, the edge’s potential is virtually limitless. More, faster, better.
That’s what edge computing delivers to customers. More data where it’s needed to deliver faster (low-latency) digital entertainment for better experiences.
The seed for edge computing was planted with the invention of graphics processing unit (GPUs). GPUs provide high-resolution images, video and audio—right into the device of the individual user smartphone, tablet or tv. Since companies like Nvidia introduced the chips 20 years ago, they have been continually creating faster and smaller GPUs to enable digital experiences on various devices, from smartphones and handheld games to PCs and televisions.
But while GPUs can provide images and sound, they can’t deliver the data needed to make it all possible. That’s where the cloud comes into play. Except not the public cloud and its central locations of servers. We’re talking about the cloud located right where the user is. That’s how edge computing brings computing power closer to where the data’s being consumed.
The edge helps deliver a next-to perfect picture on an amazing flat screen streaming of movies and shows on Netflix, Prime, Hulu, HBO Max and Peacock. Not to mention gaming experiences on handheld devices, mobile phones and PCs. And now, trips into the metaverse for a mashup of virtual and augmented reality.
This Is Edge Computing
Cloud computing relies on concentrations of servers. In the U.S., for instance, these servers are located predominantly on the east and west coasts where the most customers are. But the Netflixes of the world can’t serve their entire customer base from its central cloud server. So, they are deploying servers closer to where pockets of customers area. For example, the servers cache data for key shows and films to be served up on demand. This leads to more experiences delivered faster (with lower-latency) than is possible from central cloud servers. Gamers are benefitting, too, as the dreaded screen freeze-ups are being eliminated and the soundtrack keeps playing with the game, and the interaction between you and the opposing player is seamless.
So, yeah, the name “cloud” is a bit of a misnomer. With the cloud, data isn’t really in the air, as the name suggests. Rather, the cloud is physical. It’s infrastructure. Cloud data resides in data centers near key population and business centers on major continents. Given the volume of data that digital experiences require, the central cloud infrastructure isn’t close enough to enable speed and uninterrupted use and deliver low-latency entertainment experiences. Edge computing provides a solution by putting that infrastructure—and processing power—right where the customers are.
Why Edge Computing Is “Edgy”
Edge cloud computing is a much nimbler version of the public cloud. It puts cloud servers near clusters of users, so data can be cached for access. Your edge device—smartphone, tablet or tv—processes data from a hit show outside of the cloud. These edge servers are, in turn, act as a gateway connected to the central cloud to access additional data when needed.
Gartner estimates that by 2025, 75% of data will be processed outside the traditional data center or cloud.
How does the edge work for media companies? A streaming media company can put a video rendering solution in the U.S. West region near Los Angeles to service studios and designers serving the movie industry to encode and render video in the cloud. The result is lower latency—or lag. With the advent of 5G, the edge holds the promise of greater mobile experiences.
Lag exists in modern gaming because data needs to be processed in the cloud. But before this can happen, the data must go through your home network and internet service provider (ISP) to the cloud. The coding of the graphics can be delayed. Then the data has to go back to you from the other gamer. By contrast, edge shortens the distance the data needs to travel. Edge puts micro datacenters localized nearer to you to enable novel experiences. In short, the edge is where you, the user, are.
On The Field or Track, In Your Living Room—Or the Palm of Your Hand
Edge computing use cases go beyond the types of entertainment originating from streamed digital and audio data and games. Take professional sports, for example. Sports are the perfect example of the capabilities of edge computing in use today—and point toward a future full of potential. The NFL Ticketholder app can use their smartphone to virtually toss a football into the back of a virtual pickup truck positioned in the middle of the field. The edge allows fans connected to point their phone's camera to the middle of the field to see the virtual pickup truck materialize on the field using augmented reality (AR). Fans can simultaneously see the live virtual football tosses happening in real-time from other fans.
In another example, NASCAR is using edge to provide fans with mobile transactions, sports betting, AR and VR as well as real-time biometric data from drivers such as heart rate during the competition. It’s a prime example of how edge computing meets IoT and 5G.
Opportunities with Edge Computing
Driven by IoT, faster chips, the rollout of 5G—and strategically located data centers—edge computing has much further to go. The entertainment innovations that will result from the edge are only limited by our imaginations.
Icreon has worked with entertainment brands Fox Movies, Fox Plus, European Waterways, Playbill to bring tangible results. For more information on the future of edge computing in your industry, explore Icreon's Digital Product Development services.