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The intelligent edge reshapes wireless networks

Wireless technology has had a transformative impact on business infrastructure.

By John Oates

Wi-Fi connectivity is an integral part of almost every business today. Outside of the office we either expect to use another Wi-Fi network or to have equally reliable, robust and fast access via our mobile networks.

This unplugging has completely changed how we interact with software and technology and created thousands of new types of business.

But the next step for wireless networks will embrace a whole new class of devices and exponentially increase the number of connections to the network.

The internet of things will bring wireless connectivity to almost everything within the business – connectivity will shift from people to things.

The arguments over network standards for IoT devices are still raging. Some deployments are using existing Wi-Fi networks while some are choosing between licensed or unlicensed narrowband standards.

It is likely that different standards will begin to focus on different use cases.

But IoT will massively increase the amount of data using the network.

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It will also change the shape of the typical network.

Network intelligence, storage and computing power from the centre to the edge – where the data is created.

HPE calls this the intelligent edge It is predicting computing power will move out of central data centres towards the edge of networks where IoT devices and sensors are located. This will reduce the load on the network by reducing the need for terabytes of data being sent back for central processing.

Instead basic analysis and the creation of actionable insight will be done on the shop floor, in the power generating plant or in the maintenance workshop.

HPE is already shipping products like the Micro Datacenter which can be literally wheeled onto factory floors to deal with tidal wave of information, crunch the numbers and provide instant insight.

It comes with its own power supply and cooling system and can survive the rough and ready environment likely to be found on a factory floor. It can be loaded with converged hardware and whatever applications are needed.

Several other manufacturers are making similar moves to help deal with the expected tidal wave of extra data IoT is expected to create.

As the price of the devices drops so the scale of the projects will grow. The numbers are simply dazzling.

A single aircraft engine might have as many as 5,000 individual sensors.

This technology also changes the business model for the engine manufacturers.

They can offer predictive maintenance as an additional service to their customers. Even more radically, as Rolls Royce have done, they can do hire engines to airlines by the month and promise to continue to improve fuel efficiency over the lifetime of the contract.

Where once Rolls Royce relied on engine sales, and therefore airlines renewing their fleets, it is now a data company which sells services.

Exactly what impact IoT technology will have on the typical enterprise is impossible to tell. But one certainty is that it will change both the scale and the shape of the future wireless networks we use.

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