Single Board Computers (SBC) Impact the Future of 5G in the Telecommunications Industry

By Jason Khoo

5G is the biggest revolution in the telecommunications industry. With its benefits to digital transformation and its impact on cloud computing, it’s expected that 5G will become a staple of IoT ecosystems.

Addressing the problems with cloud computing, data processing and analytics, and IoT networks requires more than just 5G. however. Performance, latency, security, and customer experience all hang in the balance, and IoT edge devices with computing platforms built on single-board computers (SBCs) and powered by 5G provide the best solution to the future of telecommunications.

Challenges of Cloud-Based Storage

At its start, cloud computing has been a crucial part of healthy infrastructures for businesses demanding fast collaboration and productivity for a remote or hybrid workforce. It also proved safe and scalable – two initial concerns with the adoption of cloud storage. Businesses could transfer and share large files between devices, while also providing a safeguard in the event of a cyberattack.

Cloud computing has also been instrumental in the adoption of IoT devices. Cloud-based data centers provide scalable mass storage, analytics, processing, security, and continuous updating, making it a common resource for IoT ecosystems.

Using the cloud is not without its disadvantages, however. Mission-critical functions are difficult, due to the latency between the cloud and the network’s edge. In transit, data can be vulnerable to hacking and large transfers can put a lot of stress on the operation.

Single-Board Computer (SBC) Overview

A single-board computer (SBC) is a functional computer built on a single circuit board with a microprocessor, input/output, memory, and other features found in a computer. Essentially, SBCs are a complete computer on a printed circuit board (PCB).

SBCs have been on the market for several years, but they were typically used as part of an embedded system. Now, SBCs have a range of GPUs and processors to provide a low-power computing solution.

The basic structure of an SBC includes a processor core, memory banks, peripherals, and buses. The internal data bus connects all of the individual components.

Single-Board Computers for Edge Computing

Edge computing is a viable solution to cloud storage. Data processing and analytics can take place at the network’s edge, providing rapid real-time insights and reducing many of the concerns with cloud-based storage systems.

IoT edge processing is best with computing platforms based on SBCs that provide mass storage, high-speed memory, security, and multiple operating systems.

One of the most significant benefits is that SBCs offer flexibility in the platform configuration. The system can be outfitted with the minimum requirements, then scaled as needed without starting over. Purpose-built PC systems don’t have this agility.

SBCs are varied and may use a variety of hardware accelerators, converters, and fabrics. Engineers also gain in-depth information about the system as they build it, which transfers over as the system scales. The result is a do-it-yourself, highly configurable system that can be built to need, then scaled with shifting demands.

If the needs of the system exceed what an SBC can offer, SBC clusters are an option. Clusters with multiple nodes offer higher memory, mass storage, and high performance in confined spaces. SBC clusters can also be created using off-the-shelf SBCs.

In comparison to a traditional cluster, SBC clusters are affordable, smaller, and energy efficient, making them a superior choice for the demands of the edge.

5G and the Future of Telecommunications

5G is driving the future of IoT and edge computing in IoT devices. Increasing speeds by up to 10 times that of 4G, 5G can send data over long distances and overcome obstructions on the low band and deliver faster performance on the high band. As a result, more wireless devices and services can be included in the network without impacting the performance or creating excessive network traffic.

Edge computing combines with 5G to reduce latency and bring computing capabilities into the network close to the end user. This allows high volumes of data to be processed efficiently for rapid responses to mission-critical tasks.

Combined, these technologies can improve the performance of applications and enhance the customer experience. Data can be filtered at the network edge, delivering vital data to end users and prioritizing data that needs to be sent to the cloud-based network core.

At this time, 5G adoption is slow, but global operations are considering rapid roll-out of broad 5G coverage. As a result, not all use cases are available at one time, creating barriers how to expand 5G coverage beyond isolated applications.

Consequently, the lack of 5G coverage in new applications and 5G devices, enterprises have little incentive to develop the technology further. This creates a vicious circle of not enough adoption to drive 5G investment, low user adoption and range, and slow development of new 5G services.

Edge computing with 4G can create capabilities that 5G can settle into, overcoming limitations in coverage. Despite its comparatively low performance, 4G with edge computing can pave the way for better development, adoption, and demand for 5G with edge computing.

In short, the adoption of edge computing can fuel greater demand for 5G services. There’s little question that both of these technologies will be widespread in the future to deliver applications like autonomous drones or telemedicine, but without edge computing, 5G only addresses some of the limitations.

Bringing It All Together

Individually, SBCs, 5G, and edge computing play crucial roles in the future telecommunication and widespread adoption of the technology. Together, they fill the gaps that limit customer experience.

SBC computing platforms provide mass storage, high-speed memory, enhanced security, and flexible operating systems for IoT devices. Edge computing addresses the limitations of cloud-based storage solutions, including latency, security, and high-volume data transfers. Combined with edge computing, 5G can utilize multiple spectrums to reduce network traffic and send data over long distances with improved performance.

Even with 4G. the widespread adoption of SBCs and edge computing can increase the demand for 5G as both enterprises and consumers see its capabilities for nascent markets like AR, mass-scale IoT, drones, and medical robotics.

About the Author

Jason KhooJason Khoo is the Head of SEM at SolidRun which is a global leading developer of embedded systems and network solutions, focused on a wide range of energy-efficient, powerful and flexible products which help OEMs around the world simplify application development while overcoming deployment challenges.

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