6th January 2021 Is working from home pushing us closer to the edge?

In recent years, the demand for edge computing has been driven mostly by IoT, 5G, and AR/VR. But now the world pandemic has completely changed the computer landscape. COVID-19 has sent millions of people into a remote-working situation almost overnight.

Previous predictions about steady growth for edge computing have been thrown out as the demand for high-speed networks accelerates at an unprecedented rate. So has the “new normal” of working from home pushed us closer to ‘the edge’?

How many people are working from home?

Before the pandemic, 68% of British employees had never worked from home before. In April 2020, when the UK was in full lockdown, nearly half the population was doing some form of home working.

By October 2020, data from the Office for National Statistics showed that the number of people working exclusively from home had risen to 24%. Remote working hits its peak in mid-June, at which point as many as 38% of people were completely reliant on their new home office.

Is working from home the ‘new normal’ for businesses?

A YouGov survey has shown that even once Coronavirus is no longer forcing people to stay at home, 91% of workers would still like to work from home at least some of the time. Now, during a second lockdown, companies have started to adapt to remote working as a possibly permanent situation for their employees and begun looking at how to make it easier and safer in the long term.

If people and businesses are indeed keen to continue at least some form of working from home post-Coronavirus, this will inevitably increase the demand for edge computing. Enterprises all around the globe are gearing up for rapid demand for edge solutions, and many are working hard to place themselves in the right position to take advantage.

What is the purpose of edge computing?

Edge computing is a distributed computing topology that works at the “edge” of what cloud services can provide. It’s also a literal geographic position, which means it’s normally located at or near the source or device. Edge computing has brought computation and data storage closer to the location where it is needed, which has been even more beneficial with the sudden increase in home working.

Edge computing has also had more focus as the world witnesses the growth of IoT (the internet of things), which has increased even further with working from home. Remote working demands fast, real-time computing power and applications to process, handle and deliver information as we develop and expand our analytics, devices, and AI capabilities.

Does edge computing make working from home better?

Although many of the concerns about drops in employee productivity when home working has proven to be unwarranted, businesses and their people still rely on the efficiency of their computing. Edge computing provides benefits that can ensure productivity remains high, such as low latency, improved bandwidth and improved battery life for devices.

Edge computing doesn’t only mean it’s near the source, it can also be at the source. A great example is the smartphone in your pocket. Much of its security comes from its ability to store your private info such as fingerprinting and codes onto the device itself.

These devices, one of the many dropped under the definition of IoT, have always been a hotbed of security concerns. But edge computing can localise the storage of data to make it harder to hack from a central source where somebody could access lots of devices at once.

Does edge computing create better networks?

With the modern workplace settled in for the medium to long term for many enterprises, there is now a huge demand for video and online communication. Video conferencing and streaming is at record highs, and there is no situation more frustrating to experience latency in than during an important meeting. Even the standard 5 milliseconds can seem slow in a hyper-connected world.

Networks have never been as important as they are currently. There is no room for lagging, poor resolution, and slow caching of data. The more the world moves towards edge computing to bring the data ingestion point closer to the source, the better. The more applications that are built to respond in real time, the smoother work communications and data transfers can become.

Before home working became common, it was no issue that the network data centres were based in city areas, as this was where most of the network traffic was. Now this has shifted to residential areas, which means network traffic has had further to travel. But people expect to work with the same real-time processing speeds as they do in the office, raising demand for edge computing.

Is edge computing the future of home working?

Although there has been much progress on edge computing, driven by an increase in demand for IoT and remote working, there is still more work to be done. We can only reap the benefits of edge computing when we can guarantee the performance of all applications and systems. That’s why some companies are working to create a network specifically designed for home edge computing.

Over the next few years edge computing will become a contested topic; a debate accelerated by the effects of COVID-19. But edge computing can help us overcome the challenges of network latency and provide immediate real-time insights in crucial situations. It is no surprise then that previous projections of steady growth have been swapped for a hockey sticky curve leading up to 2027.