How edge computing can transform healthcare
Healthcare faces a daily battle with rising demands, strained finances and the fallout from the pandemic. Could “edge computing” be its saviour?
The terminology lacks the charisma of a new vaccine or wonder drug, or the political drama of a multibillion-pound funding programme. However, it has significant potential to tap the oceans of valuable data washing around healthcare.
Edge computing is a physical infrastructure outside a cloud setup or central data system that enables staff to access and analyse data – patient and clinical information – swiftly, cleanly and locally. The technology’s transformative potency comes from taking the data generated every day by hospitals, clinics and wearables and placing it close to where it’s needed most, rather than in a central repository where bandwidth and latency are barriers to its use.
Edge computing eliminates latency – the time taken to access the right data – and provides opportunities for faster response times and more comprehensive insights. It could empower technology for at-home monitoring, telemedicine and scaled-up virtual services, along with smart systems and real-time diagnostics. This is mission critical for the new care models needed to alleviate the roadblocks that blight traditional reactive care.
The edge is proving powerful across industry and retail, where it has a clear profit and loss impact. Analysts Grand View Research predict it will achieve a compound annual growth rate of 38.4% from 2021 to 2028.
Health systems can be slow to adopt technology. However, the edge is beguiling because it offers efficiencies from using data smartly at source. It could also be a gateway to new systems like 5G networks, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).
“2021 is the year of the edge,” says Laura Foster, programme manager, technology and innovation for techUK, the trade association for tech innovators, companies and organisations. “We are generating so much data and it doesn’t make sense to send it all to the cloud; it makes sense to process the data as soon as you can so it can be used where it is needed most.”
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