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  • August 31, 2021
  • By Ariff Sidi General Manager & Chief Product Officer, Media Platform, Verizon Media
  • Blog

Closer to the Edge: How Broadcasters Are Using Edge Computing to Reimagine the Viewing Experience

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Edge computing is fast-moving technology that's transforming how data is being handled, processed, and delivered from millions of devices worldwide. The growth of edge computing is underpinned by the boom in IoT devices and new applications and services that require real-time computing power, such as self-driving cars, artificial intelligence and robotics. Recent data shows worldwide spend on edge computing will reach USD $250 billion by 2024 with a compound annual growth of 12.5% between 2019 and 2024.

Edge computing is already being used in multiple industries, such as manufacturing and healthcare, and uptake will only increase as more sectors realize the benefits of this transformative technology. The media and entertainment industry has been slow to explore edge computing's ability to transform how we watch and interact with content. However, this is all set to change as the use cases for edge computing in the media and entertainment industry become more apparent, empowering broadcasters to revolutionize viewing experience by driving innovations across the media and entertainment ecosystem.

A Decades-Old Technology Finally Comes of Age

Edge computing is currently at the center of a lot of hype and excitement, so it's easy to assume that it's a new technology. The reality is that edge computing's origins can be traced back to the 1990s and its primary purpose was to deliver web and video content from edge servers that were deployed closer to users instead of relying on a central, potentially distant location. However, it would be another 30 years until edge computing came of age and the world entered the era of cloud computing in the interim. Cloud computing provides centralized services via the cloud, which people can access via a range of devices. Most of the services that can be centralized already are, and emerging use cases demand greater performance and quality of experience than a traditional cloud architecture enables. Right now, we're on the cusp of entering the era of edge computing where data processing is done at or close to the source of data, improving services at scale. 

Real-life use cases of edge computing can be found in manufacturing, healthcare and smart homes. In manufacturing, edge computing empowers devices to collect real-time data from remote sites where connectivity is inconsistent or not cost-effective. Data can then be transmitted back to the central network to streamline industrial processes, optimize supply chains and create "smart" factories. Healthcare providers can use edge computing to locally process data from monitoring devices instead of storing it in a third-party cloud to maintain data privacy. Additionally, edge sensors can monitor patients in their homes and alert caregivers to changes in their condition and adjust the treatment plan accordingly. Edge computing can also be used in smart homes to process data closer to the house instead of sending it to a centralized remote server, which helps reduce costs and latency and minimize the risk of security and privacy issues.

It's important to note that edge computing is not an alternative to the cloud, but it changes the way we use it. Instead of collecting and analyzing ever-expanding data streams, the cloud or corporate data centres will focus on processing information and perform the necessary data archiving. This saves time, money and reduces pressure on the network itself.

Using Edge Computing to Reimagine the Viewing Experience

Edge computing is still at its inception point in the media and entertainment industry. However, even now it's clear that edge computing will drive innovations that will help broadcasters reimagine the viewing experience by overcoming the challenge of managing and distributing live content at ultra-low latencies, particularly as more 5G capable devices emerge. Edge computing will help solve the latency challenge by optimizing key video workflow capabilities such as video ingestion, video encoding, and ad-insertion closer to where users physically are by utilizing a Content Delivery Network (CDN) edge compute platform.

Computing at the CDN edge will play a critical role in helping broadcasters manage the demands from traffic spikes and flash crowds which can often overload servers and disrupt streams. As the streaming market continues to boom, there will be an increased pressure on broadcasters to deliver TV-like experiences and edge computing will help them accommodate increased demand for their services and guarantee reliable and high-quality streams regardless of how much data is required. There is also minimal administration necessary to utilize computing at the CDN edge. Developers can deploy code with minimum overhead and minimal infrastructure provisioning. 

In a broadcast environment, edge computing will deliver much lower latency, faster workload time, and the ability to localize workloads for individual users or individual customers. Workflows in live media entertainment are extremely latency-sensitive, so even a reduction to 200 milliseconds latency will make a meaningful difference to the viewer. This slight but impactful improvement in latency means broadcasters can also supplement the viewing experiences with new features and services, particularly betting and live sports production.

The advantages of edge computing mean content can get into the cloud more quickly during live events so broadcasters can engage more effectively with the users across any device or platform. Additionally, content producers can leverage edge resources to get content more rapidly into the cloud for things like processing or transit.

How Much Further Until the Era of Edge Computing Arrives?

While the broadcast industry hasn't started to use innovations powered by edge computing, the use cases and their advantages are clear. Edge computing will bring new video capabilities to the end-user to leverage the technology's power and speed to deliver next-generation viewing experiences.

[Editor's note: This is a contributed article from Verizon Media. Streaming Media accepts vendor bylines based solely on their value to our readers.]

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