Verizon Innovation Center aims to unleash LTE’s full potential
Grand opening of VZW LTE labs features new apps and devices designed to leverage 4G’s unique capabilities.
Though Verizon Wireless didn’t exactly open the doors of its new Innovation Center in Waltham, Mass., for the first time today, it did have a coming out party of sorts. For the last 20 months, Verizon and its vendors’ engineers have squirreled themselves away in the center’s labs, inviting every manner of entrepreneur, developer and tinkerer to test out their applications, gadgets and ideas on a test long-term evolution (LTE) network built on site. Today at the center’s “official” opening, Verizon took the opportunity to showcase some of the technology developed there.
First up was LiveEdge, a real-time mobile broadcasting platform developed at the Innovation Center by Nomad Innovations with the help of center sponsor Ericsson. CEO Bob Klingle said Nomad had been searching for a replacement for the microwave and satellite technology that network news outlets have been using for 40 years to transmit live video feeds back to their studios and over the air. Anytime a news station goes live remotely they’re tied to a truck sporting a massive microwave transmitter or satellite dish, making live news coverage an expensive and difficult task.
LiveEdge uses the wide-area wireless network to transmit its video and audio feeds, essentially sending live coverage over the Internet to station, Klingle said, but Nomad’s initial attempts to make LiveEdge work on 3G networks fell flat. The networks weren’t robust enough to support a consistent high-quality feed. Klingle said he was about to shutter the company and chalk up LiveEdge as a technology before its time when it started working with Innovation Center engineers. The resulting LTE-powered transmitter has the low-latency and huge capacity needed to support real-time HD video feeds, but the whole product can be mounted on the back of a TV camera.
“As a result we actually have a product that NBC, ABC and Fox—you can name them all—desperately need,” Klingle said. The technology will not only allow news agencies to do away with the equipment trucks, but it can effectively turn every roving cameraman into a live broadcasting bureau so long as LTE connectivity is available. It will enable a whole new type of news gathering, Klingle said.
LiveEdge units won’t be commercially available until later this year, but the most futuristic of the applications Verizon and its partnered demoed have already been deployed today. VGo makes telepresence robots that allow a user to establish a physical presence in a remote location. By logging into the robot, its handler can see what it sees, hear what it hears. By toggling the controller, the robot moves and by speaking into the microphone the robot talks. VGo founder and chief technology officer Tim Root said that VGo can be used by remote workers attending staff meetings, in healthcare and in distance learning applications.
For instance, in out-patient care, a VGo unit can be taken home by a patient when he or she checks out of hospital. The robot can then monitor vital signs and be used as a doctor or nurse to follow the patient’s remotely. In an education, VGo has been used to bring home-bound children into the class room, not through some special distance education program, but as part of a regular school curriculum. “He goes from class room to class room as if he was truly there,” Root said of a student using VGo to attend classes while confined to an isolation tent at home.
VGo was originally designed to work over specialized Wi-Fi networks, but by installing LTE radios into the robots, their range is greatly extended. The unit can roam beyond the confines of a specially built local area network to literally anywhere there’s an LTE signal, Root said. LTE’s low latency provides real-time responsiveness in the robot’s controls—much like that required in a video game—while LTE’s huge bandwidth supplies the capacity needed for real-time video and audio feeds.
Verizon showed off other technologies -- such as TouchTune’s 4G jukebox-- at its presentation, and dozens more applications at its newly opened Innovation Center showcase. One theme that seemed to run through the presentations was the emphasis VZW and its partners placed on developing LTE applications on the small scale rather than just focus on the next big smartphone or tablet. LiveEdge’s Klingle said that a large technology company like Intel of Google would never pursue a new mobile broadcast technology because of its limited market. Klingle readily admits that there’s only a certain number of news gathering organizations, public safety and military agencies to which Nomad can sell its product.
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