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In this four-part series, Booz Allen examines the rise, implications, and applications of edge computing. In part one, we show how better frontline decision making increases warfighter performance and safety.
For warfighters, first responders, and border patrol troops, there’s a lot on the line. These individuals often need to make quick decisions—both for mission success and for the safety and security of the many others who depend on those decisions.
But take a moment to consider the conditions these individuals might operate under: intermittent connectivity, weighty and complex gear, and limited time to assess an environment before acting. They might not have the ability, or the luxury of time, to receive intelligence from central operations. Too often, the men and women that protect us must carry out critical missions without full situational awareness—where their most reliable tool to guide them is instinct.
Of course, the U.S. government and its military are in the business of training instinctive and well-prepared frontline leaders. But our nation’s challenges are not what they used to be, and we can’t afford to continue relying on old technologies that leave people in the dark when executing on increasingly modern missions. Looking ahead, we need a new communications paradigm that puts the right information in the right hands, at the right time.
“Too often…the men and women that protect us must carry out critical missions without full situational awareness—where their most reliable tool to guide them is instinct.”
Imagine the possibilities if we could bring the powers of data to the field—without requiring the cloud or network. Imagine if we could enable smart decision making in the most remote environments.
That future is already emerging through edge computing.
Many in the technology industry define this term as the computing and processing that can occur at the edge of the IT enterprise. But to truly transform what’s possible in areas including defense, humanitarian assistance, and disaster recovery missions, Booz Allen is offering a new definition and approach that goes far beyond the traditional enterprise: We make processing possible on the edge device itself and therefore at the point of data collection. To set the table, let’s explain what we mean by edge computing and how it will change the current communications structure.
The technology behind edge computing allows us to push the boundaries of:
“Through edge computing, we can change the data-to-decision framework in the moments that matter most.”
This new communications framework unlocks information that was previously inaccessible to men and women in the field—and, for that matter, to the central enterprise. It makes situational awareness possible no matter how remote the mission. Through edge computing, we can change the data-to-decision framework in the moments that matter most.
Gartner predicts that 75% of enterprise-generated data will be created and processed outside the traditional, centralized data center or cloud by 2022. But Booz Allen isn’t focused on edge computing because it’s the next digital trend. We’re bringing these capabilities to organizations because edge computing has the immediate power to protect lives.
This rings especially true in a military setting. Currently, information follows a certain “value chain”: Data from the field is collected on sensors, captured at the ground station, copied to the operation center, tagged for analysis, prioritized for response, and then eventually gets back to the warfighter whose decisions depend on it. There could potentially be a dangerous lead time from data to decision and we must upend that process to increase overmatch and survivability.
Edge computing short circuits this model by enabling decentralized decision making. With the access to data on their own devices, soldiers can quickly assess the threats in front of them, identify who’s a target and who’s a co-combatant, and feel confident in their actions to carry out defense missions.
For instance, imagine if a pilot operating a drone could corroborate with other nearby drones to make a target decision after identifying a person of interest. Or if a soldier knew who or what was behind the next door. There would be no more waiting on someone in central command to analyze a decision, or to ensure safety.
From integrating critical intelligence for warfighters, to providing operations and predictive mechanical information in the field, to coordinating tactics for troops and first responders—decentralized data processing is the future of carrying out the modern mission.
The trends are clear. From mainframes to desktops to mobile to edge devices, the industry is moving towards an edge mindset. Consumers are demanding access to information and constant connection, no matter if they are in the center of New York City or at the top of Mount Everest. The amount of data available to each of us is proliferating, while processing capabilities are advancing to make that data more tenable. Innovations in 5G and Internet of Things are pointing us to the next digital network at the edge. All this technological progress is enabling a new type of data agility that will soon change communications as we know it.
For the military today, simply getting the IT infrastructure in place isn’t enough. An edge computing framework can shorten data to decisions so warfighters can make informed choices without waiting for validation from central command or a distant server. Edge computing is the bridge—the piece we were missing—that reaches all the way from central command to the frontline vehicle, device, tank, ship, plane, or other sensor the warfighter is carrying. It improves mission performance and minimizes risk for those putting themselves on the line.
“All this technological progress is enabling a new type of data agility that will soon change communications as we know it.”
Of course, to achieve edge computing at scale you need to address it at scale. There are numerous, complex pieces of the puzzle that need to be engaged and considered, both in technical and non-technical categories. For example, solutions need to integrate and advance existing hardware and devices, data processing, analytics, networking, military operations, and the mission itself. Simply put, transformation through edge computing requires a sophisticated approach to a new technical architecture—along with an overarching strategy that makes it all work in a unique enterprise environment.
In the next parts of this series, we’ll examine how to approach edge computing, what challenges are most common towards adoption, and how this technology is already benefiting end users.
Edge computing enables decentralized decision making beyond the IT enterprise—even in remote environments. Learn how edge computing can help achieve mission success at the tactical edge. Read More