Edge could help transform South Africa’s healthcare

Issue 8 2023 Infrastructure

Edge computing has emerged as a game-changing technology for many industries, and the healthcare sector is no exception. In particular, South Africa’s healthcare industry could significantly benefit from the potential of this technology.

Our government’s long-term strategy is to improve the health of South Africans by “creating a healthy, tech-savvy population that embraces existing technological innovations, changing how we live, work, and innovate as productive global citizens.” [1]

With the help of edge computing, healthcare providers in the country could transform how they deliver care to patients, making it safer, more accessible, efficient, and practical to address these objectives directly.

Edge computing is a matter of location

Edge computing features a decentralised computing architecture that brings computing power closer to where data is generated and processed. This technology enables data to be analysed and processed in real time, without transmitting it to a centralised cloud or data centre. Edge computing devices, such as sensors, medical equipment, and mobile devices, are located at the edge of the network, close to the end users. So, they can make instant decisions and actions based on the data they receive.

Rudie Opperman.

We already use devices that do edge computing every day – smart speakers, watches and phones are all edge devices as they collect and process data locally while interacting with the physical world.

Gartner predicts that by 2025, 75% of enterprise-generated data will be created outside of centralised data centres. [2] The prospect of moving so much data in time, or disruption-sensitive situations, puts strain on the global internet, which can exacerbate congestion and disruption. In response, IT architects have shifted focus from the central data centre to the edge of the infrastructure, taking storage and computing resources from the centre and moving them to the point where the data is generated.

Healthcare and the edge

This proximity to data at its source can deliver substantial benefits, including faster insights, improved response times, better bandwidth availability, and optimised protection of both people and property. Essentially, edge computing allows businesses to bring the digital world into the physical world. Healthcare is an excellent example of where this gap can be bridged.

Security is increasingly important as we use more digital technology to make healthcare more efficient and effective. Edge computing can enhance security by enabling South African healthcare providers to deploy security measures [3] closer to the data source. This can include encryption, access controls, and authentication protocols, which can help prevent unauthorised access or data breaches. Privacy and patient data protection are also critical. In this context, healthcare providers could use an edge-based application such as the AXIS Live Privacy Shield to monitor activities while safeguarding privacy remotely. Live Privacy Shield enables compatible cameras to dynamically mask moving objects, humans, faces, or the background in real time, while simultaneously recording. [4]

Using edge computing in healthcare can enable providers to collect and process vast amounts of patient data, improving healthcare outcomes. For instance, real-time, wearable devices that use edge computing can monitor a patient’s vital signs, such as heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen levels, and alert healthcare providers in the event of abnormalities. This data can be used to detect health problems early on and prevent them from becoming more severe, improving patient outcomes.

Moreover, edge computing can help healthcare providers optimise their operations, reducing costs and improving efficiency. For example, edge computing-enabled medical devices can automatically detect when they need maintenance or repair, alerting healthcare providers to act before they break down. This proactive approach can save time and money by preventing expensive repairs and equipment downtime. Additionally, edge computing can streamline administrative tasks, such as scheduling appointments and managing patient records, freeing healthcare providers to focus on patient care.

Real-time insights facilitate local actions

Adopting machine learning, AI, and augmented and virtual reality for patient care and training could transform South African healthcare. To produce valuable and instructive outputs in a healthcare system, we need extensive real-time data processing capabilities and close access to the computational power that edge computing devices provide.

Transporting massive amounts of data to a central cloud network is costly. Challenges like networking limits and latency should also be considered. Organisations can integrate edge computing into their existing systems to address these problems. This will provide new opportunities to increase the healthcare ecosystem’s functional, medical, and financial value.

To make the most of these opportunities, healthcare providers should find a trusted partner with a proven multi-cloud platform and a comprehensive portfolio of services and third-party applications designed to increase scalability, accelerate performance, and strengthen the security of edge deployments for different environments. [5]

For more information, contact Axis Communications, +27 11 548 6780, terri.miller@axis.com, www.axis.com

[1] https://www.health.gov.za/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/national-digital-strategy-for-south-africa-2019-2024-b.pdf

[2] https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/what-edge-computing-means-for-infrastructure-and-operations-leaders

[3] https://www.axis.com/en-za/solutions/healthcare/safety-and-security

[4] https://www.axis.com/products/axis-live-privacy-shield

[5] https://www.axis.com/en-za/solutions/healthcare


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