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The companies created the studio in 2020 to support the development of next-generation applications aimed at transforming industries such as mobility, energy, and industrial automation.
Now in its second year, the studio is incubating new startups to leverage Verizon’s Ultra Wideband 5G network and Mobile Edge Compute (MEC) capabilities — core components of the Verizon network installed at Newlab — to design, prototype, and test their technologies.
Elise Neel, vice president of new business incubation at Verizon, said in an interview with VentureBeat that the group’s mission is to develop software businesses that are powered by the 5G network.
“When we think about what do we do, it’s all about those new business opportunities that are going to be disrupted by the 5G future. How does Verizon develop more intellectual property and ownership in that area? It’s all a part of our CEO’s vision to transition Verizon from being known as a telecommunications company to being known as a technology company.”
The 5G challenge
Asked how any startup could produce an application that uses much bandwidth of a 5G network, Neel said people wondered the same thing about the launch of 4G LTE a decade ago.
“We were all scratching our heads about how we would ever use 4G LTE,” she said. “4G is an anchor that will be here forever. And 5G should not be seen as a replacement for 4G. I think 5G will be transformational. We will see the impact soonest in the business-to-business landscape.”
She added, “When we think about industrial automation, what we hear today from our customers in warehousing, manufacturing, logistics, supply chain, and others is that they have independent and discrete opportunities to connect and operate single portions of the value chain, whether those are stations on the manufacturing line or whether it’s a logistics operation or monitoring vibration in an environment.”
In other words, the software could be very useful in setting up islands of 5G wireless networks that are secure and able to connect campuses in closed environments.
“As a result of having all of this data flowing in real time, how do I create intelligence and apply that?” she asked. “What do I do with all the data? You have a private connection and private networking, and you also have mobile-edge compute.”
Newlab is located at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, set on a 300-acre campus of private land on the East River. The lab raised $40 million to convert the location from a manufacturing facility to a home for tech startups. It hosts 198 startups creating new technology, Newlab CEO Shaun Stewart said in an interview with Verizon.
“That is like our foundational DNA, and the innovation studios, like the Verizon partnership, are an example of more than 11 different active innovation studios that we operate,” Stewart said. “We assess what are the opportunities we should focus on and what type of technology should we bring in.”
“When Verizon came to Newlab, the idea was to build a partnership network with small businesses that are tech-focused, that are building products that could be supercharged by 5G and edge computing,” said Satish Rao, chief product officer at New lab, in an interview with VentureBeat. “And then that could be the way Verizon moves out into the world with a lot of different solutions that can help a variety of sectors transition into the new world.”
That led to the creation of the 5G Studio, and Newlab interviews a bunch of startup applications with Verizon. The startups spend months building the tech and piloting it with Verizon. Verizon built a testing environment at Newlab, where the carrier installed a private 5G network and a local mobile edge compute system. The first class went through last fall, and the second one is finishing up now.
At the end of the process, Verizon has a chance to license the tech, and the startup can own any tech that gets created. Newlab also exposes the startups to more than 300 investors who may invest in them.
“Verizon figured out they can do a lot more than provide phone service and devices to consumers,” Rao said.
The 5G Studio’s aim is to lead with investment and give exposure to startups, Neel said.
“It provides kind of a bi-directional relationship where we can learn and grow together and also offer networking and investment,” Neel said. “We’re also building and piloting technology together. So each of these companies in the second cohort had access to new business incubation software technology, as well the latest and greatest from our 5G network and our partner network components.”
5G Studio participants
The seven startups were selected from a cross-section of industries and disciplines and include companies specializing in autonomous robots and autonomous drone data collection, bi-directional EV charging stations, machine learning and AI, and more.
“What I think is always delightful is seeing how quickly these new companies [that] are just pure software or robotics companies or industrial companies are able to rethink their architectural deployment to optimize their programs and their applications for 5G,” Neel said.
E1ectr0n enables high-mix, low-volume manufacturing with a compact benchtop robot platform named Pr0t0n that assembles hardware with high precision on its own or in collaboration with humans. E1ectr0n developed the technology and know-how to design and manufacture a series of rapidly deployable, highly flexible robots and automation solutions to meet a variety of small-scale manufacturing demands, including collaboration and tele-remote operation tools in an industrial environment networked by Verizon 5G technology.
E1ectr0n deployed the Pr0t0n robot at Newlab’s headquarters in Brooklyn, New York. The robot was remotely operated from E1ectr0n’s headquarters in Oregon using Verizon’s 5G infrastructure in an Industry 4.0 environment. The remote operation leveraged computer vision to program the manufacturing process for a music synthesizer that requires high precision and safely pauses production upon detecting nearby hand movement, all in near real time.
Fermata Energy was founded to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) on the road and the transition to renewable energy on the grid. Its V2X technology turns EVs into energy storage assets to combat climate change, increase energy resilience, and dramatically lower the cost of EV ownership. Their V2X solutions specialize in the delivery of energy services from EV batteries to the home, building, or energy grid — and have the only V2X system for light-duty vehicles commercially available in the U.S.
Fermata Energy installed a bidirectional charger and used its proprietary V2X energy management software to perform V2X activities with a Nissan Leaf using both 4G and 5G technologies. With the charger connected to Newlab’s building energy load, its testing compared peak shaving and load balancing operations of the electric grid between 4G and 5G. It proved 5G’s ability to react to changes in the grid based on near real-time data and with near-zero latency. Given the density of distributed energy systems to come in the near future, and the fleets of EVs connected to them, the ability to load-balance and optimize in near real time will be necessary to deliver energy services and spark new business models between the vehicle owner, buildings, and grids.
Iterate Labs is an industrial IoT company. Its AI-powered solution collects data from the workforce and delivers insights for efficient factory floor operation and driving automation. Iterate Labs’ wearable Delta-1 and computer vision software digitizes workforce data, edge processes it, and uses cloud software to deliver the insights for maximizing workforce productivity, safety, and process automation.
Iterate Labs used the 5G network to enable near real-time data transfer between wearables, cameras, and their proprietary cloud software. Leveraging 5G, they were able to apply computer vision and wearable motion data processing to analyze the performance of a large workforce and factory, largely in near real time, with extremely low latency.
Easy Aerial provides a military-grade, autonomous drone-in-a-box-based monitoring, inspection, and surveillance solution for commercial, government, and military applications.
Easy Aerial remotely deployed its Smart Aerial Monitoring System (SAMS) drone-in-a-box solutions, including portable charging hangars, hexacopters, and high-resolution EO/IR/Zoom payloads. Access to the 5G Studio and MEC enabled the company to test its 5G-enabled solutions and advanced processing capabilities at the edge. The team’s tests included AI-enabled object detection and telemetry transmission designed to help infrastructure, enterprise, and government users unlock safe, drone-based data collection at scale. They demonstrated that ultra-low latency 5G allowed live drone video and telemetry data to be collected and transferred to and from a MEC for rapid processing and analysis.
EVPassport is an EV charging hardware and software platform provider. The company offers an open application programming interface (API) for EV charging stations, allowing businesses to increase customer engagement through EV charging.
EVPassport installed three chargers at Newlab, launching the world’s first 5G-powered EV charging platform, simulating the company’s ability to provide simple charging solutions for EV fleets. Leveraging 5G, the team managed to reduce latency in charging sessions and orchestrate the chargers in near real time to rebalance load based on EV charging levels, for example, by prioritizing power to vehicles with a lower charge.
Fantasmo is a platform for 3D maps and hyper-accurate positioning. The demands of location-based services (e.g., e-scooter, food delivery, ride-hailing, augmented reality) have outpaced capabilities of the global positioning system (GPS). Fantasmo’s camera positioning service (CPS) provides accurate positioning 20 times better than GPS for any camera. It works in GPS-degraded environments, including cities and indoors.
Fantasmo tested 5G’s ability to support its accurate positioning and 3D mapping solution. Through testing, Fantasmo was able to update maps in near real time using camera data, as well as pinpointing the exact location of an e-scooter moving between geofences. This opens up the opportunity to enable hyperlocal positioning for a variety of mobile platforms, including delivery robots, drones, HMDs, handheld devices, and autonomous vehicles.
Sojourn offers proprietary computer vision that enables last-mile delivery service providers to complete deliveries within a centimeter of accuracy to pinpoints determined by their customers at homes, businesses, and other locations. With no additional hardware requirements, this unique system empowers both human and robotic couriers to complete precise delivery missions to persistent pinpoints customers have established.
Sojourn utilized the 5G network to create and access hyper-accurate maps that enabled a drone to quickly locate user-defined points in Newlab, simulating a 5G-enabled last-mile delivery solution. Additionally, the company successfully completed total migration of Sojourn’s Cloud services to the 5G Studio’s MEC in testing and demonstration.
“The intention is to explore partnership opportunities, or next steps with some of these companies based on the results,” Rao said. “We’re having those discussions as we speak.”
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