Smart organizations rely on data to provide significant insight and real-time processes and operations management.
They routinely mine these data from sensors and IoT devices running in real-time from anywhere in the world.
With the ever-increasing 2.5 quintillion bytes (2.5 e+9 GB) of data created every day, the way organizations handle computation becomes extremely important.
This is because the traditional computer architecture, which is based on a centralized data center and the internet, can not transfer the continuously flowing real-world data.
So, edge computing surfaced to close this gap.
Edge computing is a distributed information technology (IT) architecture in which client data is processed as close to the original source as possible at the network’s perimeter.
This relocates some storage and computes resources away from the central data center and closer to the data source.
In simpler terms, what this means is that, earlier, devices connect, receive instructions, and download updates from the cloud or data centers that are centrally located somewhere far away.
However, with edge computing, the processors are placed local to the end devices so they do communicate without little or no transportation at all. The data collection, sorting, and preliminary analysis can be done on-premise, then being sent to a centralized database at a later time.
This results in reduced roundtrip and faster communication. And saves resources and efforts in critical cases.
Also, it will solve problems associated with bandwidth constraints, latency concerns, and unpredictably disrupted networks.
Edge computing and the African edTech startups
Research by the University of Virginia: On the systematic review of Educational Technology in Developing Countries showed that the emergence of educational technology (“EdTech”) in developing countries is a promising avenue to address some of the most challenging policy questions within educational systems.
The report classified EdTech interventions into access to technology, technology-enabled behavioral interventions, improvements to instruction, and self-led learning.
As much as self-directed learning and instructional improvements are highly important for edtech interventions, making the associated data possible for real-time analysis would provide immeasurable insights for African edtech startups.
This would not only create leverage of comparative advantage to address deficiencies within educational systems in developing countries, but will also fast track access to technology, and make data interact quicker.
How edge computing can benefit African edTech startups
In augmented and virtual reality
Augmented reality (AR) uses a device camera to overlay digital elements to a live scene while Virtual reality (VR) involves a completely immersive experience that isolates the user from the outside world.
In both cases, users are transported into a variety of real-world and imagined situations using certain devices. Examples of some VR devices are HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Google Cardboard.
As this happens, the device communicates with a cloud system or data center to incorporate that experience into your reality.
When using AR and VR for learning, your interaction with a particular device communicates or sends instructions to a decentralized system, which then responds with what you initiated.
However, when you try to have these humanlike exchanges and there exists a significant drag in the communication, it makes cognitive processing difficult. This is when you introduce edge computing to improve the smoothness in the realism of augmented reality.
As an edtech startup leveraging AR and VR to enhance teaching and learning, introducing edge devices for local computing and storage will make your process faster.
The inclusion in virtual classrooms will help students and teachers to engage rapidly and smoothly, and Learning won’t be hampered by choppy connections.
In Internet of Things (IoT)
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of interconnected, internet-connected objects that can gather and transmit data without the need for human interaction across a wireless network.
In learning environments, it improves security, tracks important resources, and increases information availability in the classroom. Also, teachers can leverage the data and information to create “smart lesson plans.”
As much as all these takeaways are important, a prolonged round trip between devices and data centers would slow down getting information.
Edge computing allows school districts with limited bandwidth to process data locally rather than sending it to the cloud.
For instance, If your startup incorporates sensors into educational toys or classroom facilities to track learning behaviors and social dynamics, or sets up a low-power processing device on the playground to collect safety data.
You want the immediate stakeholder: teachers and school administration to make informed decisions (i.e to track attendance) from the surface insights before you provide more details from your headquarters.
When IoT device data is processed via edge computing infrastructure, information is processed faster allowing for optimum productivity and efficiency.
In student outcomes
The ultimate learning outcome is to cause a positive reaction, achieve learning, spur a positive reaction, and shift behavior.
In edtech, these can’t happen without real-time feedback capabilities that could power performance-enhancing learning systems.
Edtech startups can employ machine learning and artificial intelligence to tailor the prompts and lessons to the learner’s learning style based on what the student enters into the learning management system.
Edge computing makes this faster and increasingly achievable at scale, it allows you to improve student experience and engagement while also driving learning growth. It would also lower operating expenses, and ease obtaining insights from collected data.
In saving costs
Without compromising quality and teaching time allocation, education management should be less expensive. Edge devices can help learning organizations save money over time.
Edge computing is a less expensive choice for education organizations wishing to expand their computer capacity. It is expensive to send data to the cloud. Data sent to the edge has the potential to save you a lot of money.
Though, investing in edge all at once could be a major financial risk. But the return on investment is always far better.
African edtech startups should understand that edge computing services, with their particular efficiency and reliability, can help them, and educational institutions with research centers, think tanks, and other entities.
As 5G gradually becomes evident in Africa, looking into edge dependency and utility will be a smart move for startups targeting the unicorn status.
During school hours, when many people are trying to use the internet at the same time, overloaded networks are more likely to occur. These overburdened networks can benefit from edge computing, so if you’re an edtech company that deploys IoT in schools, this is profitable leverage for you. It will assist your company in dealing with this problem.
And in the stance where educational institutions have been targeted by hackers, edge computing can help as it stores data locally rather than centrally, so a single security breach will not always result in system-wide consequences.
Edge, in other words, comes with a layer of cyber security.