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5G cellular technology offers the promise of more bandwidth, greater capacity and lower latency. 5G could enable a new era of edge computing applications, but first, the applications need to be developed.
Among the leading global carriers for building out 5G networks is Verizon, which has a vested interest in seeing the ecosystem of startups and new applications that benefit from 5G continue to grow. To that end, for the last several years, Verizon has partnered with startup incubator Newlab on the 5G Studio initiative. In 2021, the initiative helped seven startups across a range of industrial sectors build out 5G applications and services.
Today, Verizon and Newlab announced the 2022 cohort for the 5G Studio, with a strong emphasis on robotics automation technologies.
“We have continued to just up the game on the sophistication level of the interoperability between devices, networking and software, which is the secret sauce that we’re really focusing on,” said Elise Neel, senior vice president of new business incubation at Verizon.
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A key part of the 5G Studio effort is not just to announce support, but to actually prove technologies out.
“Validation is critically important, especially when you’re talking about advanced tech that will be used by enterprises in complex scenarios, you can’t just show pitch decks,” Satish Rao, chief product officer at Newlab, told VentureBeat. “We’re able to test these things in real-life scenarios here at our facility and Brooklyn, New York, where Verizon has outfitted the building with an internal private 5G network and on-site edge server.”
Defining the 5G edge opportunity
One of the reasons Verizon and many others are particularly excited about 5G is its potential to enable a new era of edge computing.
Cloud computing has defined an architecture where processing occurs in cloud data centers. With the edge, instead of the core processes all happening in the cloud, compute and processing capabilities exist at the edge of the network, within devices and inside of remote locations.
Neel noted that one of the challenges that became very apparent with the most recent cohort of Newlab 5G Studio participants is actually figuring out what type of edge deployment can make the most business impact for an organization. The cloud, network and mobile networks all have edge deployment modalities.
“Where you process your compute and how you leverage that to the advantage of the application and for the business service, is something that we are now afforded choice on and business model opportunities that frankly didn’t really exist in the previous world,” she said.
Neel emphasized that 5G also provides more than just edge capabilities. In general, she highlighted the fact that 5G provides up to 10 times the capacity of 4G LTE from a bandwidth perspective, with lower latency. The lower latency is particularly impactful for managing autonomous industrial units running in operations, which is well represented in the new group of startups supported by the Newlab 5G Studio. 5G also enables more connected devices.
“With 5G, you have all of the massive capacity to now move from 1,000 connected devices per square kilometer in a 4G world to a million connected devices per square kilometer in a 5G world,” Neel said.
Robotics, AI and 5G
There is also a very strong intersection between the capabilities that 5G enables and AI.
As part of the new 2022 5G Studio cohort, startups AlwaysAI and AntRobotics are working together in a partnership approach. AlwaysAI is a computer vision-based software company focused on the edge, while AntRobotics is an inventory-movement technology with robot components powered by fleet management software. According to Neel, the partnership between the two helps empower the robots to get rapid computer vision updates that help to enable a platform approach to automation.
Cleo Robotics is another participant in the latest Newlab 5G Studio cohort and it, too, is in partnership with an AI technology. Neel said that IronYun, which is an AI-powered video analytics startup that the 5G Studio began working with in 2021, is working with Cleo Robotics to help enable a robotic drone platform.
“Cleo fits in the palm of your hand and is a very unique form factor for a drone; and they seek to provide access in restricted areas where there’s no GPS signal in super rough terrain or for indoor environments,” Neel said.
Rounding out the new cohort is Ottonomy, which is in the business of building autonomous robots that can help to deliver goods. Omri Admon, senior program manager at Newlab, explained to VentureBeat that Ottonomy can operate inside of airports, for example, and deliver goods to people using private 5G networks. The same technology can be used to help enable last-mile delivery services inside cities.
The idea of enabling a platform of connected capabilities across startups that benefit from 5G is a key theme of Newlab’s 5G Studio now.
“In the first couple of cohorts, we were really focused on the art of the possible — learning from the startups, what they see is possible over 5G,” Admon said. “Now we’ve been moving more and more towards building a puzzle of solutions that can work together.”