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Google Cloud is increasing its bet on edge computing by partnering with 200 application developers whose services will now be available from datacenters closer to business customers. By expanding edge computing, Google is hoping to entice even more enterprises to turn to the cloud for their computing needs.

The move is timed to take advantage of the rollout of 5G networks, which promise far greater speed and a higher number of connections. Still, there are some next-generation applications that could be hindered by lag times — even with 5G — such as industrial robots and virtual reality. By processing data on the edge, in closer proximity to end users, Google hopes to further optimize functionality.

“Organizations with edge presences — like retailers operating brick-and-mortar stores, transportation companies managing fleets of vehicles, or manufacturers relying on IoT-enabled equipment on shop floors — have an opportunity to modernize processes and deliver new experiences with cloud capabilities at the edge,” Google Cloud managing director Amol Phadke wrote in a blog post.

Edge computing is part of a broader transformation of computing infrastructure that promises to enable a wide range of new services. Beyond the availability of 5G, developments like micro datacenters and microservices are delivering the pieces to make cloud computing more robust and reliable for a wider range of functions.

Among the uses Google envisions are things like warehouse robotics that can be controlled from the cloud, AR/VR services for factory technicians as they repair machines, enhanced live video from concerts or sporting events, and wider deployment of cashierless checkouts. However, any latency in these services could limit their utility.

Phadke said the new edge services will help customers “reduce latency, lower processing costs by processing data and compute cycles at the edge, reduce costs and processes associated with data storage, and eliminate the need to transport data from the edge to a central location for real-time computation.”

In the case of Google Cloud, the company has been building out its edge networking services while partnering with telecom providers like AT&T. Google earlier this year formally announced Anthos, its Kubernetes-based cloud management platform to help customers manage their operations across both cloud and on-premise systems. Such a platform also allows customers to manage edge computing services.

The 200 application partners include Siemens Advanta, Broadpeak, Zebra Technologies, Palo Alto Networks, and Equinix. By making applications more reliable and accessible, Google also believes edge computing will help enterprises tap into its cloud-based AI and machine learning capabilities.

“Companies across industries still often rely on robust on-premises systems or even small on-site servers to tackle core computing tasks,” Phadke wrote. “But with new 5G capabilities delivered at the edge, retailers can, for example, build enriched in-store visual experiences streaming directly from the network. Or manufacturers can run advanced AI-based visual inspections directly from 5G-enabled devices — all without the need for local processing power — helping reduce cost and the need for on-site space.”

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