What does 5G and edge computing means for airports?

How 5G and edge computing are helping airports tackle the biggest challenges of the day

Airports have always faced enormous challenges when it comes to security and crowd control. Today, there’s a new threat they have to contend with – the ongoing covid-19 pandemic.

As countries start to reopen their borders following a decline in the rise of new cases, they’re now tackling the growing risk of imported cases. Unsurprisingly, airports are getting a lot of attention as they face increasing pressure to adopt new technologies to fight the pandemic, as well as address the challenges they already had to begin with.

Fighting the covid-19 pandemic with cutting-edge technology

5G and edge computing are two of those technologies which are helping in the fight. In China, for example, 5G-connected patrol robots are out in force to detect and monitor people who may be infected. Many airports are now using thermal cameras, and others have deployed computer vision technology to detect whether people are following the rules on wearing masks in public spaces.

The two technologies continue to merge as they help overcome the challenges of conventional cloud computing, such as limited bandwidth and high latency. For example, thermal cameras and machine learning, powered by specialized local hardware, are now using 5G to send huge amounts of information across the network quickly. This simply wasn’t possible to the same degree with older mobile networks, due to the bandwidth and latency limitations.

In airports, thermal scanners and cameras record multiple gigabytes of information every hour. Sending this information through a local wireless network is rarely practical due to coverage constraints, and 4G simply doesn’t offer the required bandwidth. At the same time, the data can only be recorded and processed locally due to hardware requirements, hence the need for edge computing, where processing takes place locally instead of in the cloud.

Keeping airport staff informed with real-time information

Combining the greater speeds and lower latencies of 5G networks with specialized hardware allows for real-time communication of crucial information to airport staff. Since the computing work takes place in the device itself, such as a thermal imaging robot or 5G camera, there’s no need to make do with the limitations of cloud-hosted computing resources. And, with 5G, it’s possible to send that information almost instantaneously to airport staff. This allows them to detect and isolate people who might be infected with covid-19 much faster than would be possible if all they had was access to prerecorded information. Given the disease’s tendency to spread very quickly in crowded environments like airports, this ability is critical for allowing air travel to resume without causing catastrophic damage to public health.

Implementing cyber defenses right on the edge

Of course, covid-19 is far from the only challenge airports face when it comes to security. 5G and edge computing are here to stay for a multitude of other reasons too. One of the biggest reasons for this is that it’s better for security. Airports are common targets for cyber terrorists and state-sponsored attackers. With access to real-time information and processing taking place locally, sensitive data can be protected at the source, instead of it being sent over the cloud where it could end up being intercepted during transit between many different nodes.

Edge computing is a new frontier in cyber-security. Unlike the distributed and ubiquitous infrastructure of cloud computing, computing at the edge has a much smaller attack surface. This demands a new security framework, but one that’s much better placed to help overcome the many security concerns which have previously faced IoT deployments.

Saguna offers MEC solutions which can help airports address security challenges during and beyond the age of corona-virus. Call us today to find out more.


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