By Chris Docherty, Regional Manager Infrastructure Solutions Group (ISG), Middle East
The COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns have spurred fundamental changes in the ways we live and work. They have also exposed some weaknesses in the broader IT architectures that support us in our day-to-day life.
Some of the changes, including remote work, more virtual collaboration, increased video streaming, an ongoing rise in online gaming, and an increased need for data security are likely to last long after the pandemic passes. Meanwhile, the infrastructure shift towards intelligent edge computing will be widely accelerated. According to IDC, over one quarter (28%) of companies in the GCC say they will invest in edge technologies.
One of the applications created in response to COVID-19 is the real-time mask and social distancing identification. An effective prevention measure is to wear a mask in crowded places while maintaining physical distance. To help enforce these measures and generate data on habits, governments and other orgs explored and deployed automated, real-time detection methods. See Lenovo’s work with UNC Chapel Hill, for example. High data transmission speed and low latency enabled by edge computing supports real-time image and video handling with deep learning and other intelligent technologies to support public health precautions.
COVID-19 also changed the way we work, making remote work or working from home “the new normal”—what we’ve called the remote revolution. Many companies already stated they will not return to the old ways of working even when the pandemic danger has passed. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies can help lessen the need for spending on hardware devices company wide. This enables employees to use their personal devices from home, and that—combined with edge computing and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)—makes for less expensive and more flexible work operations.
Perhaps even more importantly, our culture has changed—and this shift has been further catalysed by the ongoing pandemic changing expectations for both employers and employees.
A survey of 1,000 white collar professionals in the Middle East, conducted by recruitment company Robert Walters, found that 38% of professionals would like full-time remote working, and a further 32% would like to be able to work remotely at least half of the time.
Beyond the two use cases above, we also see new trends in online shopping, gaming, and entertainment, which are becoming the new gold standard for consumption, driven in part by lockdown policies. These new ways of consuming media bring new challenges to traditional IT infrastructure. As more and more customer workloads require fast response and interlocks, edge computing is the most efficient way to address new challenges like reducing response time, providing better customer experiences, and reducing the bandwidth requirement from edge to cloud to help optimise OPEX and CAPEX from the networking infrastructure side.
Edge computing is also helping transform smart cities, which can also help provide a quicker response to a public emergency crisis like COVID-19 by bringing computing, storage, and artificial intelligence/machine learning technologies to where data is being generated: e.g. public emergency healthcare, public security, public transportation, remote education, etc.
Coming out of the COVID outbreak, leaders are upgrading their business with the help of edge computing. Because of its advantages, edge computing is rapidly becoming a focus not only for emergency use cases such as COVID-19, but also for the intelligent evolution of industry.
Lenovo is supporting businesses everywhere by enabling them at the Edge. In manufacturing clients are using Lenovo big data to better forecast market demand. A retail customer is piloting a cashless store where payment is enabled with facial recognition. In healthcare augmented reality is transforming cancer research.
And we’re working to transform cities too. One example is Bogota; deploying a Lenovo Edge solution to enable efficiency and scale at its central control room, which manages over 1,000 cameras.
Going beyond that we also see Edge as an enabler and driver of Artificial Intelligence. At a time when the speed and agility of processes within businesses critically impacts operations, our customers demand more powerful, secure and flexible solutions. Lenovo’s technology architecture is purpose-built to deliver real-time, valuable insights from edge to core to cloud, enabling a new era of intelligence where customers can fully realise the potential of the data at their disposal. Being able to handle and compute real time data is where Edge is enabling the next phase of artificial intelligence.