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How is Edge Computing Making Strides and Transforming the Healthcare Industry?

By Ramneek Kalra, IEEE Member

The year 2020 witnessed a disruptive shift –one that was instrumental in expediting the race towards the adoption of smarter technology in India. We saw digital transformation timelines drastically reducing from years to months – impacting all industries, big and small. Most of all, the healthcare industry witnessed massive changes and embraced digital initiatives around telehealth, data analytics, and digital engagement to meet growing demands. As per IBEF, the digital healthcare market in India stood at US$ 116.61 billion in 2018, however, by 2024, it is expected to increase at a CAGR of 27.41% to US$ 485.43 billion.

IEEESmart healthcare involves personalized diagnostic applications and services like record-keeping, which is the exchange of information among users and healthcare personnel – and one that has been vital in improving quality of life. However, with the advent of new technologies and a fast-paced digi savvy environment, patients today require a more sophisticated smart healthcare framework that is tailored to suit their individual requirements. If you look at today’s environment, the majority of computing is taking place either in on-premises data centers or in the cloud –– and healthcare is no exception. The healthcare industry is experiencing a paradigm shift in the way it structures, deploys, manages, and secures its IT infrastructure – particularly with the global market for Internet of Things (IoT) medical devices which is expected to reach $500+ billion by 2025.

As IoT devices become increasingly popular – with edge computing applications expanding to accommodate them, many businesses are thinking of ways to leverage this technology to the fullest. Though the healthcare industry is not always up to date with the latest inventions, it benefits immensely from the expanded use of IoT edge devices and the computing architectures that support them. Besides 5G and smart IoT sensors, edge computing has a major role to play in providing intelligent, real-time healthcare solutions that satisfy energy consumption and latency criteria. The use of edge computing can support the healthcare industry, by ensuring that data remains secure. Because edge computing often works near the Application Layer i.e., users without the use of public network, it is often the best solution for securing data and infrastructure. This may include integrating Li-Fi, 5G, AI, ML and Deep Learning techniques with Edge Infrastructure.

Due to high demands of having a local system and transparency between patient-doctor relationships, edge computing plays a vital role in establishing an infrastructure where individuals can locally share data without the use of bandwidth. In mission-critical systems like emergency healthcare transportation, latency is one of the biggest issues that is currently faced, however, with the help of edge computing, latency can be eliminated completely. Not only this, but edge computing has also proven to be crucial in times such as the pandemic, as it has allowed doctors to care of patients from remote locations.

Some of the key benefits of edge computing in healthcare include:

  • Real-time data processing and analytics: Edge Computing itself concentrates on processing and analysing data over the Application Layer without interacting with the Cloud Layer. This allows computing and analytics to be performed on a real-time basis without any latency.
  • More control over data security: When it comes to the data privacy of patients, doctors, staff members, etc., edge offers flexibility to provide customized firewalls from one’s own infrastructure.
  • Monitoring and subsequent action on critical vitals even in remotest areas: As mentioned, Edge is working over the Application layer, so that real-time action can be taken without delay. This is vital for mission-critical scenarios including Remote Ambulance Services, Local Reachability, and more.
  • Handling downtimes and latency: One of the pros of using Edge Computing for any application is low latency without the dependency on Internet Services. This allows applications to handle downtimes and offers flexible low-latency services.
  • Cost savings: Edge infrastructure works amazingly on the same existing IoT Architecture without any major change in the structure. This is a large advantage of using Edge in the Healthcare industry with existing machines/equipment.

While IoT edge devices are going mainstream, they are yet to reveal their full potential. As the quantity of devices continues to increase, given the hybrid IT environment, edge computing examples will soon be found throughout medical IT strategies and will revolutionize the industry for a sustainable future.

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