- Verizon held an analyst event to highlight its 5G strategy for enterprises and demo a set of ‘real-world’ 5G applications.
- The demos were credible and interesting, with some showcasing a very strong 5G value proposition.
Verizon’s 5G analyst event on September 4 at the operator’s Innovation Lab in Waltham, MA combined a presentation by Senior Vice President for Enterprise Innovation and 5G Solutions Toby Redshaw with a series of demos of 5G enterprise-focused applications. The event was aimed at giving analysts an updated perspective on Verizon’s approach to the market and showing that 5G applications are truly different from 4G applications due to the capabilities of the new network to support higher bandwidth, immersive experiences, and low latency.
The presentation highlighted the operator’s perspective that 5G will be key to the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ because it supports the real-time enterprise, in which machines will be able to work with greater autonomy, intelligence, and responsiveness, allowing potentially unimaginable gains in productivity. Applications will become “proactive, predictive, pattern matched, precise, preventative, permissioned, and peer connected,” which is a pleasantly alliterative way of saying that we will see massive changes as “everything that can be connected will be connected” and as the cyber and physical worlds come together. In this world, friction, errors, and randomness are taken out, creating optimized experiences. Clearly, this is heavily tied in with the growth of the Internet of Things, but it also impacts technologies such as real-time augmented reality for training or showcasing products, or AI at the edge for anomaly detection in manufacturing processes or for facial recognition to add security at the mall or airport. Verizon noted that 5G will ultimately be ten times better than 4G in terms of IoT battery management, latency will go down to single-digit milliseconds, and speeds will increase to 10 Gbps; this will feed the ability to build video intelligence systems leveraging edge computing or immersive 3D experiences for customer engagement, stadium entertainment, or education.
Verizon discussed its position in 5G, noting that: it was the first operator to offer 5G (its fixed residential 5G launch was in October 2018); it has four mobile 5G devices announced; and it will have 30+ cities with Verizon 5G Mobile Ultra Wideband service by end of 2019. On the same day as the event, Verizon further announced that its 5G network is now available in 13 NFL stadiums. Verizon credits its 4G foundation and its fiber and spectrum investments as providing unique benefits when it comes to 5G, with a $1.35 billion investment in fiber from 2018 to 2020. In addition, Verizon named three key platforms: intelligent video analytics (aka photonic sensorization), artificial intelligence/machine learning (aka near real-time ubiquitous intelligence), and immersive creation and consumption (aka ‘This Changes Everything’) as foundational examples of what 5G can deliver. To drive innovation, Verizon is engaging directly with customers on co-ideation and is partnering with a group called the Alley which finds tech startups and helps run their incubators/labs. Verizon has also built out 5G labs in Palo Alto, Los Angeles, D.C., New York, Cambridge, and soon London. It believes that over the next few years, 5G will change ‘everything,’ including disruptive economics for the CIO with broad impact across the business in cost structure, customer engagement, revenue, and agility.
With this information as the backdrop (which added more color to Verizon’s 5G positioning), the demos commenced, including the following:
- A UCC demo including Samsung showcased office experience disruption. A 5G mobile device was put in a station that turned a display into a desktop with access to everything on the device. The demo showed a video conference in privacy mode, in which anything deemed private by any participant is fuzzed out in the image, while the speaker remains clear. The initiator created a virtual ‘huddle room’ where all the participants are shown. Documents and links can be shared and displayed. Essentially, the application creates a very inexpensive but high-performing video conferencing room using 5G technology, with the admission that it can be used over 4G, but the experience would not be as good. The key takeaway is that Samsung and Verizon can create the ‘office of the future’ – an effort aimed at allowing an improved experience on 5G, making it easier to move seamlessly from mobile to office and back without sacrificing the experience.
- Envrnmt, the XR arm of Verizon, was involved in a demo involving AI and 5G deployed in a grocery store. The shopper can use their phone to see a customized list of ingredients, or to view items on their shopping list along with relevant sales discounts or a set of product images. Employees can also use this for stocking shelves. Essentially, AI can be applied to any layer of available information to provide users with a customized set of useful information about products in a retail setting. While 5G in the confined space of the demo didn’t quite show off the functionality, if a customer was walking through an actual supermarket, the frame delay for the recognition would not allow items to be properly identified without 5G. This kind of real-time computer vision is applicable across many verticals. In schools, it can be used to augment and improve classroom learning. For marketing and entertainment, companies can make movie posters come to life or play advertising commercials over printed materials.
- BlueForce, a known provider of technology solutions for the public sector and first responders, showed a number of 5G-empowered products which leverage a mobile edge compute platform that can run on a sensor head, stick, or phone. The application supports audio and video communications, empowering hyper-enabled responders that can include canines with IoT sensors that show their image, location, and physiological state or human responders with a 5G phone with a navigation tracker, body-cam plug-in, and/or gas detection sensor module. The application also provides central monitoring with a single pane of glass to view multiple images and sensor output information. Other applications showcased included smart cities applications for gas, radiological, and firearm detection and AI to facilitate crowd/sentiment analysis.
- Robotic Assistance Devices (RAD), a provider of technology to support guarding contracts (both security guards and building security), showed off a set of products that may eventually replace human guards. It uses AI to process images, requiring the low latency of 5G. Cellular-optimized robotic units can save companies thousands of dollars a year (in human guard contracts) and perform tasks such demanding access credentials (using facial recognition rather than access cards) and checking people in to secure facilities as well as parking lots. Two-way real-time video feeds can run 24/7, via robots that can be densely populated in buildings, campuses, parking lots, etc. and never time out due to 5G.
The Verizon analyst event showed how the operator and its partner ecosystem are utilizing 5G to innovate in the enterprise space, to demonstrate both the operator’s longer-term strategy and the current and near-future status of its rollout and, in particular, to excite the imagination of the analysts with demos that really show how 5G makes a difference. Some of the demos were indeed very compelling; in particular, the BlueForce and RAD presentations made it quite clear how 5G will improve or even make possible future capabilities. No doubt, use cases will evolve as 5G rolls out, and more of the immersive, experience-changing capabilities touted by all operators launching 5G will be demonstrable. The event also showed Verizon’s view of its core messages and market position in 5G, which is useful; needless to say it remains unclear just how differentiated each operator will ultimately prove to be, as all of the major providers are experimenting with diverse partners and use cases.
Verizon released a report on 5G security on the same day as the event, noting that 5G is expected to be more resilient than 4G to cyberattacks and non-malicious incidents, thanks to a core network architecture designed to support network slicing, continuous secure connectivity for mobile devices, and lower latency. This is a useful response to questions that have been arising about possible lack of security with 5G, due in part to its role in enabling massive IoT adoption without ensuring adequate protection.