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AT&T’s ‘Edge Computing’ Could Lead to Health Care Opportunities

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AT&T is previewing a computing style that could help partners better support advanced technologies for their customers.

The telecommunications company this week elaborated on plans to establish “edge computing,” a cloud-based form of networking that processes the data of devices and applications like autonomous cars, virtual reality and robotic manufacturing.

AT&T's Andre Feutsch

AT&T’s Andre Fuetsch

AT&T says it will roll out edge computing “over the next few years,” initially targeting urban areas.

“Edge computing fulfills the promise of the cloud to transcend the physical constraints of our mobile devices,” said Andre Fuetsch, president of AT&T Labs and chief technology officer.

The company says its 5G network will provide the high speeds and low latency needed for edge computing.

“The capabilities of tomorrow’s 5G are the missing link that will make edge computing possible,” Fuetsch said. “And few companies have the sheer number of physical locations that AT&T has that are needed to solve the latency dilemma.”

The company also has reduced the physical distance between the devices and their network resources; it’s currently normal to experience lag as a result of relying on a data center that is far away.

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AT&T says offloading some of the massive amounts of data to the cloud will make the next-gen technologies like virtual reality more practical. For example, autonomous cars may require up to 3.6 terabytes. The carrier says additional processing power is needed to support the various layers of data and devices. Edge computing will allow users to essentially bring a “wireless supercomputer” with them.

“Edge computing addresses those obstacles by moving the computation into the cloud in a way that feels seamless,” AT&T said in a blog.

AT&T says edge computing could lead to advanced functionality in those next-gen solutions; a self-driving car could communicate with its surroundings in the case of an emergency, and a health-care professional could view a medical image from a phone.

AT&T has stated that it’s goal is to virtualize 75 percent of its network by 2020. The company has been developing, testing and piloting its 5G network in hopes of better supporting the Internet of Things and software-defined networking. AT&T finished deploying its LTE-M network in May.


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