In the first part of this interview with Shahid Ahmed, Group Executive Vice President for New Ventures and Innovation at NTT, we heard about a shift away from the big public cloud to the edge and how NTT works with VMware to bring our Edge as a Service capabilities to our clients. In part two, we hear more about the partnership and the unique offering that NTT brings.

This is Part Two of a two-part interview by Simon Sanders. Read Part One: NTT and VMware create the ultimate in edge applications.

Organizations that embrace the Internet of Things (IoT) are now generating huge amounts of data at the edge, and something needs to happen with all that data. Is that the essence of our partnership with VMware – we help our clients generate and transmit the data, and VMware stores it and makes it accessible?

Absolutely. I would even say VMware is the software behind all things edge that require faster mission-critical processing. Their capabilities, combined with private 5G, make it easier to bring edge devices on board that may normally be difficult to connect.

Think about a CT scan at an airport using a conveyor-belt application. Or, in a factory, there could be environmental sensors to detect the presence of toxic gases. The speed of communication becomes important: that sensor must tell a worker instantly, ‘Hey, you just walked into a potentially dangerous area, and you may want to leave immediately!’

Let’s take the example of a camera we installed for Schneider Electric, one of our clients. It’s a machine-vision camera that can detect up to 30 events per second – what’s happening on the factory floor and which people are walking in, right down to the jitter inside a machine belt.

There are applications today that can detect when a person falls, but that’s almost pointless because, well, they’ve already fallen. Our camera in the factory can detect whether a worker is walking abnormally and, with up to 99% certainty, predict that the person is about to fall. And our artificial intelligence will alert the factory manager that a worker is likely to fall within the next few seconds.

Such an application can also be helpful in a hospital, for example, where frail, sick and elderly people may be moving around. The camera can alert a nurse to intervene because someone is likely to fall.

These kinds of edge applications will be enabled by the likes of VMware.

Do you think private 5G will be universally adopted across industries or remain a niche product?

It’s akin to when Wi-Fi showed up, which was considered niche, right? We used to wire into our laptops for the best connection. But we soon realized that with Wi-Fi, we didn’t need to. It’s the same paradigm now. Private 5G is different and new, and it will take a while before it's properly adopted. But it’s that powerful that we do expect wide adoption, yes.

How is NTT’s edge and private 5G offering unique?

We’re attaching private 5G to all our Edge as a Service capabilities and offerings (IoT is one, for example). You have all these devices with sensors, and then we must collect all that data and make sense of it. That’s what IoT is really about. Then you have edge appliances as application servers, and then you attach our private 5G.

It’s like the three legs on a stool: you need them all. That's how we define Edge as a Service, as opposed to other providers that see edge as simply an application server sitting next to a hospital bed or a CT-scan conveyor belt.

But they'll come unstuck because of that?

Absolutely – because you have then taken care of just one aspect, one leg of the stool. You need the other two, IoT and private 5G, to connect everything. That’s the full-stack solution that we bring to the table. It completes the picture of what our clients are really looking for.

That said, a client may not know exactly what they’re looking for. They may say, ‘Yes, we’re looking for an edge solution.’ In that case, often a vendor will provide only the application software. But then the client will ask, ‘Wait, how do you connect it?’ and the answer is, ‘Oh, you need a private network – we’ll get a third party to bring that for you.’ Or they realize they need to put a sensor on that conveyor belt, or a gas detector that goes on the lapel of every factory worker’s jacket. Ultimately, these all form part of the same solution.

NTT is strong in all these interconnected areas. Does this mean we are uniquely positioned to provide a full-stack service?

Yes, we are unique in this way. This is how I originally envisioned our Edge as a Service – that we would bring all these things together. We also have Transatel in our group, the largest mobile virtual network operator in the world. They offer the eSIM cards that go into these machines to deliver the connectivity.

Essentially, we’re removing the friction for our customers. We're derisking their programs by offering a full stack of solutions as a single offering.

Read Part One: NTT and VMware create the ultimate in edge applications.