Optimising businesses on the Edge

Pankaj Bhagwanani

Head of Networks


New 5G networks coupled to smart, fast devices herald a new era for the Australian economy

While the past decade of digital transformation was marked by sending IT to the cloud, the next decade will be defined by proliferating smart and autonomous ‘Internet of Things’ devices at network extremities.

These so-called IoT or ‘Edge Computing’ devices perform a wide array of functions from analysing security video and identifying ill travellers, to spotting product defects on the factory floor or on a farm — and even driving massive Haulpaks and combine harvesters at remote mines and farms.

Although this new generation of smart networked devices will occasionally head back up to the cloud to report anomalies or to update, mostly they operate autonomously supported by onboard processing, storage, and software ‘brains’ like artificial intelligence and machine learning.

And making it all possible is the fast and resilient Telstra 5G network, unique for its low latency, and an ideal choice for applications such as self-driving cars and e-medicine that require rapid responses. By placing the smarts inside the customer’s operating device—supported by nearby Telstra redundant infrastructure often in local telephone exchanges—real-time decisions avoid bottlenecks, costs and delays from ‘phoning home’ to data centres far from the action.

Telstra Purple recognises three key types of edge computing, which are:

  • Network edge — Processing power and compute pushed to distributed points of presence on Telstra’s 5G network.
  • Device edge — Processing power connected to the network on an end-point such as a Microsoft HoloLens, drone or smart handheld device like a mobile phone or tablet.
  • Private edge — Customers install compute and processing power at their very remote sites like mines and farms that are connected either to private or public networks.

The next six to 18 months will be critical for Australian businesses to optimise their edge-over-5G strategy. By 2025, there will be 40 billion IoT devices around the world; 80 per cent on 5G networks.

Customers can consider how to digitise their mechanical assets to lift performance and gain insights into their state through better analytics.

For a utilities company, that may mean wrapping intelligence around smart meters, pipes and other infrastructure to monitor for proactive maintenance. Anything that has needed a personal inspection is a quick win for digitisation; and then we link them to 5G for near-real-time access.

Optimising businesses on the Edge

Sectors as diverse as mining and medicine stand to benefit from edge computing fuelled by 5G networks.

There are autonomous vehicles with thousands of IoT sensors directing them around mines. Or in a regional hospital, medical images of many hundreds of gigabytes can be analysed locally without pushing each one up to the cloud, which would strain the network. And with 5G and edge, we can deliver the services and care that people need, right where they are, in near-real-time.

Telstra Purple also leverages Telstra investment in telephone exchange ‘Micro Zones’, which fail over intelligently while retaining quality of service for sensitive applications. For instance, an application that requires a certain level of network responsiveness close to the point where work is done, stays within that zone so its performance is sustained.

Digital twins bring operational technology and information technology together for first time

The ‘Digital Twin’ is one of the more exciting edge computing areas, and a sector that researcher MarketsandMarkets expects to top $US48.2 billion ($A64.0 billion) by 2026. Deloitte defines a digital twin as a “near-real-time digital image of a physical object or process that helps optimise business performance”.

Think of it like a computer representation of what is happening out in the real world as it happens, informed by sensors and devices on the network’s edge. A digital twin may early on spot ways to improve operations, increase output and predict variations without the need for physical inspection. Of equal importance, it can simulate ‘what if’ scenarios to optimise business outcomes like cutting waste, lowering emissions or finding the best price-performance trade-offs.

Telstra Purple is keen to partner with independent software vendors (ISVs) and technology companies to bring exciting new solutions like Digital Twins to market.

With Telstra by our side, Telstra Purple as Australia’s biggest and best sovereign managed services provider can accelerate the digital transformation of their customers through their deep domain expertise in Application Development, Cybersecurity, Network and Cloud. But it’s when we partner with ISVs that magic starts to happen.

It could be providing analytics and performance for a factory or insights into the health of staff. So we want to hear from developers that have tailored solutions in verticals such as mining, retail, manufacturing and healthcare.

Telstra Purple also partners with leading edge technology providers such as Microsoft, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Ericsson to bring state-of-the-art edge computing capabilities to its customers.

But what really excites me about edge and 5G is how it coalesces around cybersecurity, the network and cloud to imagine what is now possible. There's a massive opportunity for optimisation and digital transformation within our customer base and we want to be there, walking alongside them on their journey.

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