Vodafone on 2021: IoT, 5G, MEC – and the move to performant industrial networking
Technologies have always tended to converge. Smartphones are an example of this: a phone merged with a media player and a camera to create something unique, which performs multiple tasks and addresses multiple needs at once, increasing our reliance on it.
Something similar is happening with the Internet of Things (IoT), 5G, Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) and Mobile Private Networks (MPN), which are coming together to make the promise of real-time services for applications like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Virtual Reality (VR) possible.
This convergence offers new and exciting possibilities in many sectors, like manufacturing and healthcare. But it also creates a new paradigm for the telecommunications industry, as IoT’s role evolves from simply establishing a connection to being an integral part of a real-time system.
And this change, from simply “connected” to “performant” systems, is the key to unleashing the full potential of new technologies like 5G, MPN, and MEC.
So what is a “performant” system? The first thing to understand is that performant does not necessarily mean fast – it means that the system performs consistently and predictably to support an outcome.
For instance, in some applications, such as video analytics, speed is vital. But in others, such as meter-reading, data may be gathered infrequently and yet consistency and predictability remain essential to achieve the desired outcome. And more and more, as we move into the real-time world enabled by 5G, MEC and MPN, performance comes to the fore.
A manufacturing plant relying on real-time control, data analysis, and operational monitoring of critical measures, such as production quality or tool wear, is a perfect example of a performant system. In this context, the IoT network is part of a much larger control system. Consistent, deterministic, and reliable operations are critical and a failure of the network can be as dramatic as a power outage, with operations ceasing immediately.
Role of data
So as IoT, MEC, 5G, and MPN become the “new normal” in industrial settings all over the world, companies are having to reinvent themselves to be masters of operational information technology (IT), where the technology promise is matched by the service capability.
At the centre of this new normal is a mindset shift from measuring availability as a key performance indicator (KPI) to minimising impact. This means services aren’t expected to be perfect but they need to be resilient, adaptive, and capable to ensure service continuity.
The kind of operations that rely on IoT, 5G, MPN, and MEC will require technology communications companies to also make use of the data they collect on an ongoing basis to create dynamic, auto-healing and adaptive solutions. Solutions that adjust and react to changing situations and address operational issues in new, creative, effective ways that don’t affect business performance.
This means AI and data analytics will become essential to guarantee the resilience of a system in the future.
Our recent IoT Spotlight report highlighted that 88 percent of adopters believe IoT is the enabler of their digital transformation strategies, while 87 percent said IoT was critical to their future strategy and success.
And as adoption increases, so does reliance on the service, which drives the need for performant systems that include not just the technology but the service and support environment. It’s no good having the best technology and a system running at warp-speed if the support and intervention services can’t match the performance when required. Therefore creating new ways to deliver support becomes vital as the criticality and complexity of systems increases.
It is also worth considering that the demand for a performant system extends beyond the factory gates to connect systems which together can deliver the critical capabilities and meet the increasing expectations of customers.
What does it mean for tech comms companies? Efficiency will be just one of the things businesses expect from them. Resilience and the ability to lower operational risk will become more and more important.
IoT connectivity will become a major element within performant systems and through MPN, MEC, and 5G these services will be delivered in new and adaptable configurations. Configurations that match the system needs across increasingly complex delivery eco-systems.
Crucially, the process of digitalising operations by connecting business processes will stop being something that happens at a specific moment in time and will instead be a sustained process, and one that will define the ecosystems of the future.
Matching the technology performance to the service performance and the network capabilities to the operational needs of the business will be essential to realising the promise of IoT, MEC, 5G, and MPN. And it will define the leading technology communications companies in years to come.