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Edge AI in a 5G world – part 1: How ‘smart cell towers’ will change our lives

This article is more than 3 years old.

This is part of a blog series on the impact that 5G and GPUs at the edge will have on the roll out of new AI solutions. You can read the other posts here.

Series overview

In part 1 we will talk about the industrial applications and benefits that 5G and fast compute at the edge in the form of ‘smart cell towers’ will bring to AI products. In part 2 we will go deeper into how you can benefit from this new opportunity. Part 3 will focus on the key technical barriers that 5G and Edge compute remove for AI applications. In part 4 we will summarise the IoT use cases that can benefit from smart cell towers and how they will help businesses focus their efforts on their key differentiating advantage.

Photo by Markus Spiske


From a technical stand-point, this blog series looks into how 5G and fast compute at the edge will allow AI to break out of the cloud. In particular we will be looking at how fast compute resources at the edge – in combination with 5G connectivity – will make AI Edge solutions both possible and affordable.

Overall, many applications will benefit from;

  1. having fast computing at the edge such as Graphics processing units (GPUs), 
  2. a good 5G network to connect them providing high bandwidth and low latency
  3. and great software to manage the whole fleets and estates of IoT devices.

We will discuss some examples in the section below.

Industrial applications

Various industries will benefit from increased efficiency and new capabilities, in particular;

  • Smart cities 
  • Agriculture
  • Manufacturing
  • Transportation
  • Retail and
  • Call centers

Most of these applications and industries are large:

Smart cities, 50% of the world’s population live in cities with more than 40 million miles of road to allow transport between them. 

Agriculture, 40% of the world’s landmass is covered in farming and we are reaching a limit. Therefore it is absolutely essential for all of us to find ways to improve the yield of farming so as to not consume more wildlife to feed us.

Manufacturing, there are 2 million factories worldwide. As product recalls are very expensive we need to improve ways to monitor for scratches, small cracks and burrs which AI image processing is already great at.  We need to put this type of AI in factories and help the millions of workers do better visual inspection.

Transportation, 10 trillion miles are driven each year. Cars are going to be sensing and mapping the world continuously reporting data via 5G. 

Retail,  there are 13 million retail stores worldwide. This represents almost a 30 trillion dollar industry. We need to work to find just a little bit more efficiency to make living more affordable and help bring the quality of life up for everyone.

Call centers, 5 million people provide customer services, answering questions around the world. In this case AI could also help to assist these workers in real time by doing natural language understanding and suggestions. Often call centers are unable to stream all of their data to the cloud for either sovereignty or privacy reasons so edge compute for AI will be greatly beneficial there too.


In the next posts we will go into more technical details of why 5G networks and fast GPUs at the edge will unlock new opportunities for the industries above and your business.

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