After a challenging 2020, telecommunication companies aim to make 2021 the year of 5G and hope to fully deploy the tech across the U.S.

Widespread availability of a 5G network will provide faster connections for a wide range of devices — including Internet of Things (IoT) sensors — and make new technology possible, like edge computing.

All this potentially offers big advantages for businesses — but only if they can leverage 5G and know how edge computing may pose new security risks.

Practical Applications of Edge Computing With 5G

Cloud-connected devices typically don’t have the processing power needed to handle all calculations on-device. In many cases, this means they lean on compute capability in the cloud, sending data to be analyzed there and then acting on the results.

Round-tripping data from the device to the cloud and back can take significant time and may be a waste of resources. In many cases, the calculations that are performed on the cloud aren’t complex enough that they warrant the use of its resources.

Instead, some of these calculations can be sent to nodes or data centers closer to the devices themselves. These edge nodes act as a kind of distributed cloud server that helps reduce latency and make real-time analysis easier.

The rollout of 5G — which up to 100 times faster than 4G — will help cut down latency further, making edge computing swifter and much more practical.

The size of the edge nodes can vary, depending on client needs and overall demand. Typically, local edge data centers will have one to 10 racks, while regional data centers may have significantly more.

In practice, edge computing can be extremely valuable for businesses that want to automate tasks with data-collecting IoT sensors. For example, a manufacturer may operate a smart factory outfitted with a wide variety of data-collecting IoT sensors. Edge computing with 5G would help them if they needed real-time updates or if sensors were adjusting factory equipment.

Users of IoT technology, in general, will likely stand to benefit in similar ways. For example, a logistics company that uses IoT sensors to track containers as they move along the supply chain could use edge computing to track and adjust environmental conditions in real-time, potentially preventing spoilage or damage to shipments.

In the near future, the tech will also be essential to autonomous vehicles that need to take in and process vast amounts of visual information to navigate the world safely.

How Cybersecurity Is Essential for Edge Computing

Edge computing tech also poses new problems. Businesses that adopt it won’t just have to worry about the security of their devices and their cloud servers — they’ll also need to secure their edge nodes. Otherwise, they may risk their data falling into the hands of cybercriminals.

For the most part, companies won’t be maintaining these edge nodes themselves. This means businesses that adopt the tech will be working with a third-party provider and placing a significant amount of trust in storing, handling and securing data.

For businesses that want to adopt edge computing technology, conducting an audit of current or potential edge node providers will be essential. These providers should have some basic security measures in place — like signing and encrypting data that travels between nodes and devices.

These businesses will also likely need to update their security strategy to account for new vulnerabilities the edge can create.

A business could also maintain its own edge nodes. However, this may not be practical for most companies, simply due to the investment and the knowledge base necessary to set up and secure an edge data center.

Implementing Edge Computing With 5G and Good Cybersecurity Practices

The 5G rollout is set to accelerate over the course of 2021, paving the way for new tech like edge computing.

Businesses wanting to take advantage of edge computing can leverage the potential for low latency that 5G offers. However, they should be aware of the drawbacks. Cybersecurity may become more challenging with the addition of edge nodes, and companies should be prepared for that possibility.

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