Taking Field Service to the edge
Digby Wilson, Principal, South East Australia, Field Service Delivery, Telstra and member of the current #FSN20 discusses Edge Computing and its role in TELCOs.
Telcos have struggled to keep on increasing margins and revenue through their offerings however, the need for Telco products has never been higher. Sounds counter intuitive right? How can demand go up but not the price?
Being Creative with Field Service
For the most of it, Telco products have become a commodity. So many operators offering the same or very similar. Telcos then compete on price, undercutting each other, to win customers. But that gouges margin unless you have some magic wizardry or dramatic transformation that fundamentally changes the cost base. Very few Telcos have found the wizard’s wand. So, to stay in the game knowing competition drives retail prices down, you need to sell more of those cheaper products to maintain or grow free cash flow. The problem with this theory is the market is saturated with similar products, so you are stealing from one telco to another and there is nothing new.
There has to be new, there has to be different and there has to be growth
Technology companies need to compete in the emerging functions and technology based on the needs of their customers, other industry and Service Management. Edge computing and addressing low latency is one of those emerging markets.
It’s not an ‘if’, it’s more a ‘when’ because autonomous machines, AI and proliferation of networked devices will only drive demand for edge computing north and at pace.
Low latency and quick processing (along with batteries) is the next hurdle to industrialising robotics, autonomous vehicles and agriculture where complex decisions need to be made. Robotics and autonomous vehicles are certainly not new. However, having them networked, with low latency, makes the interworking, interactions and herd or flock decisions with other machines more instant.
Latency (the time it takes to turn around data) is made up from the time it takes from user to the edge of the network (like a mobile tower), then to where-ever the packet of data needs to reach. That destination could be local, interstate or across the globe.
Having a query run across the globe and back to a supercomputer (like ‘OK Google’) maybe tolerable for a human, but if you have a convoy of rigs, driving in tandem then, latency (and possible congestion across the IP network) becomes critical.
5G will improve latency from user to base station
Latency is one thing, but decentralised processing power is another. Complex problem solving, fast decisions or output, and quickly returned is the key. You will get this in spades with Edge computing.
Now, things get blurry. Edge computing decentralised across the country. It’s almost that the computing and the network get blurred. So, who takes it on?
Data Centre operators or Telcos? Either way, the demand will be there and as telco products get more commoditised and similar, a necessity like low latency and edge computing is an opportunity to inject revenues and sustain margins. The Data Centres, cloud computing and NFV (virtualisation of traditional proprietary switching equipment) are not foreign to Telcos. However, build a network that has low latency and with edge computing grunt, then physical machine manufacturers and their customers will not be able to function without you.
Where there is a need for serious processing power, and its results quickly, then edge computing will be the solution to the next wave of need.
What will you do?
#FSN20 is an annual celebration of excellence, innovation and leadership shaping the global field service sector. This content is proudly sponsored by Salesforce.