Verizon and IBM team up on 5G, MEC testbed

Verizon and IBM are collaborating on a new testbed at IBM's Industry Solution Lab to provide enterprise customers with the tools to develop and test 5G use cases and Industry 4.0 applications.

Verizon has installed 5G Ultra Wideband and its Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC) platform at the testbed, based in Coppell, TX, so enterprise customers can try out hybrid cloud, edge, AI, IoT and other applications on Verizon's 5G network. In addition, customers can test use cases by integrating with IBM's hybrid cloud and AI technologies which run on Red Hat OpenShift, utilize IBM's edge technologies and also test their technology in conjunction with IBM's Maximo Application Suite, a cloud-based asset management and monitoring service.

Marisa Viveros, vice president of strategy and solutions for Global Telecommunications and Media for IBM, says there are three main focus areas for enterprise customers using the testbed – asset monitoring, visual inspection and field worker productivity and safety. "Our testbed is a way for us to work together [with Verizon], bring these technologies to reality, demonstrate that to customers, and tailor it to the needs of different verticals," says Viveros.

Asset monitoring includes identifying where supplies and packages are in the supply chain, and anticipating and mitigating faulty package-handling equipment. Viveros says customers can also test out IBM's Maximo Visual Inspection service for close inspection and tracking of assets. "We have a robotic arm in the production line that can recognize your product because the AI technology allows it to recognize objects. Then it determines if an object is ready to continue in production or if it's faulty and needs to be put outside production," says Viveros.

Finally, customers can test field worker productivity and safety use cases to ensure employees are complying with safety regulations, social distancing is being practiced and use thermal detection to predict if an employee is exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. "Everyone is investing in this domain to realize use cases," says Viveros. "No one buys technology anymore for the sake of technology. Those use cases need to bring value to their business."

Light Reading recently spoke with Erik Sheehan, executive director of technology, systems and strategy with wireline and global network operations at Verizon, on a podcast about Verizon's own use of computer vision to improve network operations, assist with customer service calls and ensure employee adherence to safety requirements.

"Computer vision is an automated way for us to confirm adherence to things like quality, safety standards, various stage of the job, and then we can automate actions to drive efficiencies in that process," says Sheehan.

Viveros says developing enterprise use cases at IBM's lab also extends the reach of safety and monitoring capabilities to consumers. "The type of safety and monitoring we could provide could extend to all consumers in entertainment parks, stadiums and venues. It has a broader impact beyond field workers, it has a broader impact on all human beings in stadiums, museums and entertainment venues."

— Kelsey Kusterer Ziser, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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