Organizations have been discussing digital transformation for years but that has often been interpreted as relevant to enterprises with office-based workforces. However, changes in embedded computing power, connectivity, and other areas will have huge impacts to ruggedized mobile devices and cause a digital transformation of their own.
Sub-100mm x 100mm board-level form factor central processing units (CPUs) and microprocessors are performing faster even as they are becoming smaller and costing less. This has led to an expansion of computing on the edge, including entirely new categories such as wearables. At the same time, low latency, massive capacity, and high bandwidth fifth generation (5G) connectivity and low-power wide-area networks (LPWANs) are expanding the type, quantity, and speed of data that can be transmitted.
Transform Existing Infrastructure
On the surface, this means the type of front end and middle tier applications used with ruggedized mobile devices can grow, potentially including data and power intensive technologies such as high-performance computing (HPC) and artificial intelligence (AI). However, 5G devices that connect to the datacenter—especially ones that are expected to support HPC or AI—will require changes to the datacenter and to the devices themselves to properly execute their functions.
GPU Computing for Mobile
But it will also require more powerful computing capacity. That means ruggedized mobile device manufacturers will need to support integration of acceleration technologies such as graphics processing unit (GPUs), which are commonly used in HPC and AI. There is no benefit in having 10+ Gbps 5G connectivity when the embedded CPU cannot process the data fast enough to run the application. However, organizations that want to tap into GPU-accelerated applications will also need much higher memory bandwidth.
Considerations for 5G Mobile Devices
To take advantage of these and other emerging technologies, look for a vendor that has a strong in-house engineering expertise. Rugged mobile devices were used by the U.S. military for decades before private organizations began to deploy them so many firms have deep experience in this space. This foundation is a critical requirement to understand implications of new technologies.
At the same time, ruggedized mobile device makers must have staff with experience in the growing and diversifying world of HPC and AI edge workloads, the datacenter infrastructure necessary to support 5G, and other emerging technologies.
To learn more about 5G-compliant devices, contact your account representative or send us a note.