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Smartphones, computers, and virtual reality headsets are among the most obvious consumer devices that will benefit from faster and more responsive 5G networks, while business users are anticipating similar leaps forward in robots and sensors. To spark 5G improvements in industrial settings, technology council MassTLC partnered with 5G base station maker Ericsson and carrier Verizon for a 5G Robotics Challenge last year, today announcing seven winners spread across Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

Focusing on industrial automation, warehouse automation, or collaborative robots, each of the winners receives $30,000 in project funding, plus access to Verizon’s 5G labs in Cambridge and Waltham, Massachusetts, as well as mentorship from Ericsson and Verizon engineers. Two of the winners are teams from Massachusetts universities, while the remaining five are from startups.

The winners are:

  • 6 River Systems, a provider of warehouse management and automation systems from Waltham, which seeks to use 5G to improve the reliability of mobile robots that currently use Wi-Fi;
  • Ava Robotics, a telepresence and video collaboration company in Cambridge;
  • GreenSight Agronomics, a Boston company that uses sensors and analytics to automate aerial drone-based agricultural surveys;
  • RealBotics, a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania company that lets people share internet of things innovations;
  • Southie Autonomy, a Boston developer of a “no-code” interface for instructing robots; and
  • Unnamed teams from Northeastern University and the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

“5G will completely transform the robotics and manufacturing industries using increased connectivity, cloud computing, and big data,” said Verizon IoT Product Management director Thierry Sender. “Thanks to 5G, robots are able to be completely wireless to access programs and act upon data from the cloud, with super low latency. The challenge winners will be part in helping speed up this revolution.”

Each team has 12 weeks to turn its 5G robotics concept into a working project that will be shown off at Verizon’s 5G lab in Cambridge. Collectively, their demonstrations will help to advance use cases for 5G networks, which Verizon and AT&T have already unveiled across small numbers of U.S. cities, with plans to offer dramatically expanded 5G service later this year and next year.

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