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Customer experience lives on the edge

Historically, data centers have conjured images of huge structures in remote locations with countless rows of servers that stretch into the horizon. Today, data is being processed and actioned on the edge in many unlikely places, including cars, drones, refrigerators, washing machines, fitness devices and even in pet collars. This is a natural outgrowth of IoT, which is capturing tantalizing information of a variety, volume and speed we’ve never seen before.

Yet, reaping all the advantages of connected devices depends on the ability to analyze and action this data in real time to deliver exceptional customer experiences. And this requirement is bringing companies to the edge.

A move toward the edge

Edge computing is where the processing and actioning of the data happens at the collection source, instead of moving data to the data center or public cloud. This significantly improves processing times and reduces consumption of cross-network bandwidth. The result is insight with an extremely low latency and enhanced reliability because an offsite data center does not need to be accessed for each transmission.

There’s no question that the modern enterprise architecture must be built on cloud and edge computing. Fundamentally, however, the biggest outcome of edge computing is less about technology and more about improving, and reimagining, the customer experience.

Ingredients for a modernized enterprise infrastructure

Enterprises have no bigger priority today than to deliver seamless, amazing experiences. To achieve this, they must implement two ingredients to modernize their infrastructure: real-time decision-making and a central profile to store the data. Edge computing is the backbone of all of this.

Decision-making goes hand-in-hand with moving the computing to where data is generated. Tangible value results when decisions are made in real time, in the moments that matter.

And disparate data must be pulled into a single, unified profile in the cloud that connects enterprise systems, such as marketing data lakes, CRM and ERP. This informs decisioning at the edge where experiences are delivered and provides a full view of the customer and delivers a personalized, connected experience.

Consider brick-and-mortar retailers, who are in constant search of innovation to battle online competitors. Already, retailer warehouses are including out-of-the-way server closets that hold the infrastructure and applications to process supply chain information in real time, reducing the risk of out-of-stock merchandise that so irritates shoppers. Edge analytics also will allow retailers to better understand the customers who are prowling the aisles, so they can be sent targeted advertisements or have interactive displays change right before their eyes based on their interests.

The result is a vastly improved shopper experience tailored to each individual — made possible with centralized, unified customer data and decisioning on the edge. This is virtually impossible to achieve in the submillisecond response time that consumers demand if the data has to be sent back and forth to a data center. For example, if a retailer fails to respond to a shopper instantly, the engagement opportunity and therefore the conversion and revenue will be lost. Today’s digital savvy consumers have limited attention spans and high expectations, so it’s critical that brands capture their interest in real time.

The business need for innovation

Retailers aren’t the only ones pressing for innovation. Two-thirds of organizations are adapting their technology strategy because of unprecedented global political and economic uncertainty. Digital strategies are being embraced by businesses at an entirely new level.

As enterprises become more data-centric, they are shifting from traditional business intelligence and reporting (understanding what happened) to predictive analytics (understanding what will happen), along with recommendations for the next best action. This requires taking digital strategies, then making transforming investments in a central record and using edge computing.

This innovation is not only improving the customer experience, but changing how companies view their products and services. Consider an exercise device used by multiple users in a home, like a stationary bike. Exercise can be transformed from a chore to a fun activity if each family member enjoys personalized experiences in real time. With edge computing, fitness companies can forge a deeper connection with customers by suggesting stretches or making nutrition recommendations, for example.

Edge computing will transform the customer experience

With Gartner expecting more than 20 billion connected devices to be in place by 2020, companies across industries must continually rethink how they collect, augment and use their vast data stores.

The rise of edge computing, coupled with a single view of the customer, will empower organizations to harness all this data to engage with customers in a matter of a submillisecond — they can anticipate and respond to individuals’ every need in an instant. This is the key to delivering the next generation of digital experience and positively impacting brands’ bottom line.

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.

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