How 5G, IoT and the cloud work together

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1. Cloud computing

For many companies that were forced to shutter their business premises due to coronavirus restrictions, the cloud has helped their newly decentralised enterprise remain operational.

Research from Deloitte found those firms that fared better in the pandemic had already adopted virtualisation and cloud technologies. Those that hadn’t invested scrambled to do so; PwC reports spending on cloud rose 37 per cent during the first quarter of 2020.

Essentially, cloud computing allows businesses to run sophisticated applications and store data on several dispersed computers, accessible via an internet connection. During the pandemic, this meant company data and software applications could be accessed easily at home, instead of being locked into office-based servers.

Nabil Bukhari, chief technology officer of networking firm Extreme Networks, says pre-pandemic many businesses had avoided cloud adoption, either because of fear of the technical complexity or lack of budget. “The pandemic, however, has been a catalyst to overcome these fears,” he says.

In fact, Tim Devine, a technology expert at management consultancy PA Consulting, says with Microsoft Office moving to the cloud, it is now “endemic” in everything we do.

“Almost every smartphone app is connecting to a cloud service or application, so everyone is effectively using it,” he explains.

The shift from the cloud as a place to store data to computation processing was the game-changer, says Dr Jeremy Silver, chief executive of Digital Catapult, a digital technology innovation centre, as it allowed businesses to run virtual machines and services which created new applications.

“In the film and media sector, production companies are using cloud services to collaborate on editing and production of films. And it’s being used to exchange and manage data from sensor deployments in factory environments, which is one of the ways internet of things (IoT) technology and cloud are increasingly working together,” says Silver.

The increasing proliferation of IoT devices, therefore, could drive the adoption of cloud services. This will include hybrid cloud – a public, private and on-premise storage and computing environment – and edge cloud, where computation happens closer to the IoT device, as companies seek more control over their systems, says Chris Dando, chief technologist at HPE.

“Not everything captured at the edge will be processed in central datacentres, but at the edge for mission-critical reasons. Therefore, part of the IT environment is going to become more distributed, but this will very much depend on the individual use-case and the amount of processing power needed,” he explains.

2. IoT

Interest in IoT use-cases has also been boosted by the pandemic. According to a recent McKinsey & Company survey, the share of digital or digitally enabled products in company executives’ portfolios has been accelerated by seven years. Another report by Vodafone found 84 per cent of executives thought IoT applications were key to maintaining business continuity during the pandemic.

From connected household lightbulbs and thermostats to industry 4.0 applications, IoT networks encompass a huge range of capabilities that can vary wildly between sectors. And while the notion of IoT has been around for some 20 years, adoption had previously been slow. Is this because the cloud is first needed to facilitate it?

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