Verizon opens new 5G labs at Caltech and Penn State

Researchers will use the broadband connections to develop autonomous systems and manufacturing use cases for Industry 4.0.

Image: BeeBright, Getty Images/iStockphoto

Caltech and Penn State researchers, students and entrepreneurs now have 5G connections to support research and development at new Verizon-funded labs. These universities join Arizona State University, the University of Illinois and the University of Michigan, which are using 5G connectivity for research projects. Students work on automation of manufacturing processes, autonomous vehicles and robotics.

The Caltech Center for Autonomous Systems and Technologies works with drones to detect, interpret and react to weather conditions in real time. Researchers will use the 5G connection to offload heavy computing equipment that artificial intelligence operations require a drone at the edge of the network. This capability could enable rapid interpretation of changing weather data and necessary in-flight adjustments.

Nicki Palmer, head of product development at Verizon, said in a press release that the research at CalTech represents the kinds of use cases that 5G can really take to the next level.

“While drones can operate using 4G or WiFi today, 5G and mobile edge computing can add the capacity and low latency needed to make flight navigation changes instantly,” Palmer said. “With 5G and mobile edge computing, drones can also be leaner and more efficient because the edge network can handle the processing, eliminating the hardware elements of the drone.”

Verizon is funding drone research for a year in addition to 5G devices and consulting services. The researchers conduct their research in an airfield three stories high and equipped with 2,500 small computer-controlled fans. The fans simulate weather conditions ranging from a light breeze to a hurricane.

At Arizona State University’s 5G lab, students and faculty are using high-speed connectivity to make education more inclusive, equitable and accessible, according to Verizon. The “Digital Equity Jam” will be launched this month and will focus on health, climate, poverty, human rights and education.

“At Arizona State, they are testing a variety of immersive educational experiences powered by 5G Ultra Wideband, including a career arcade using virtual reality, where students can experience a day in the life of a potential career, and a Dreamscape module where they can experience a biology classroom in virtual reality,” Palmer said.

Verizon is also working with Penn State at the university’s innovation park. This complex includes manufacturing and research space and researchers will use 5G Ultra Wideband to create new products and services for education, training and workforce development.

Tim Simpson, professor of engineering design and manufacturing and co-director of the Center for Innovation Materials Processing through Direct Digital Deposition, said in a press release that the center’s 5G capabilities will create new opportunities to boost usage and uptake. adoption of additive manufacturing. .

Verizon’s Palmer is an alumnus of Penn State College of Engineering and a member of Penn State’s Corporate Engagement Advisory Board. Palmer said in a press release that the company hopes to accelerate research and development of new use cases for 5G Ultra Wideband connectivity and mobile edge computing.

Both projects are part of Verizon’s partnership strategy to build a 5G ecosystem that includes universities, startups, national labs, government and the military. The company also has a 5G lab in London and plans 5G innovation hubs with customers.

5G networks have continued to grow over the past year, despite the challenges posed by the ongoing pandemic. In one 2021 Annual Survey, the CTIA found “…a remarkable series of private investments that ensured wireless networks were more than up to the challenges posed by COVID-19.” Wireless service providers spent $29.9 billion in fiscal year 2020 on 5G infrastructure, up from $29.1 billion in 2010. In 2020, the number of 5G cell sites in the United States increased to 417,215 from 395,562 in 2019, an increase of 21,653. The United States had approximately 350,000 5G cell sites in 2018. The total number of wireless connections also continues to grow, with data-only devices 41.3% of all connected devices. The total number of estimated connections in 2020 was 468.9 million in 2020.

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