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How edge computing can create better viewing experiences

Taking advantage of the edge will allow broadcasters to create better viewing experiences, writes Ariff Sidi, general manager and chief product officer, media platform, Verizon Media

Despite the increasing interest in edge computing, it’s not a new technology. Edge computing is decades old and rooted in the ideas of remote computing when it was more convenient to have computing resources at the desired location instead of relying on a central, usually distant location. Today, edge computing revolutionises data handling, processing, and delivery from millions of devices worldwide. Data shows that the market for edge solutions will grow to USD $9 billion by 2024 (from $2.8 billion in 2019). 

While usage of edge computing is accelerating in industries such as manufacturing and healthcare, the media and entertainment industry hasn’t scratched the surface of edge computing’s ability to transform how we watch and interact with content. However, this is all about to change as the use cases for edge computing in the media and entertainment industry become more apparent, revolutionising how broadcasters deliver their services by driving innovation across the entire media ecosystem.

The advantages of edge computing 

An increasing number of broadcasters and content owners are now looking at the benefits of having edge compute resources at the location instead of relying on centralised services via the cloud. Edge computing optimises key video workflow capabilities such as video ingestion, video encoding, and ad-insertion closer to where users physically are by utilising a content delivery network (CDN) edge compute platform. Additionally, running latency-sensitive applications closer to the user will open up new product opportunities that can only be achieved by changing the nature of how video is delivered. Innovative use cases such as wagering for live sports create a richer, more personalised experience and can only be achieved with near real-time streaming. Streaming services looking to CDN providers for content protection can benefit from improved responsiveness and accuracy with methods such as forensic watermarking to help safeguard content. 

By processing and managing data closer to where users are located, broadcasters can engage and interact with consumers as close to real time as possible. However, it’s important to note that edge computing is not an alternative to the cloud, but it changes how we use it. Instead of collecting and analysing ever-expanding data streams, the cloud or corporate data centres will focus on processing information and perform the necessary data archiving. This saves time, money and reduces pressure on the network itself.

Reimagining the viewing experience 

Computing at the CDN edge will play a critical role in helping broadcasters manage the demands from traffic spikes and flash crowds which can often overload servers and disrupt streams. As the streaming market continues to boom, there will be an increased pressure on broadcasters to deliver TV-like experiences. Edge computing will help them accommodate increased demand for their services and guarantee reliable and high-quality streams regardless of how much data is required. There is also minimal administration necessary to utilise computing at the CDN edge. Developers can deploy code with minimum overhead and minimal infrastructure provisioning. 

Edge computing means much lower latency, faster workload time, and the ability to localise workloads for individual users or individual customers. Workflows in live media entertainment are extremely latency-sensitive, which means that a reduction to 200 milliseconds latency makes a meaningful difference. This improvement in latency means broadcasters can reimagine the viewing experience, particularly for betting and live sports production.

Another advantage of edge computing is that it empowers broadcasters to get content into the cloud more quickly during live events and boosts real-time engagement with the user across any device or platform. Additionally, content producers can leverage edge resources to get content more rapidly into the cloud for things like processing or transit. 

Delivering next-generation viewing experiences 

Despite the broadcast industry only beginning to innovate with edge compute solutions, the advantages for content providers are clear. Using edge computing to bring video capabilities closer to the end-user will empower broadcasters to deliver next-generation viewing experiences.