assembly line

Verizon Business said it will partner with Deloitte to use 5G and mobile edge computing (MEC) to develop offerings for what Verizon calls “real-time enterprises.” The first deployment for the Verizon Deloitte 5G MEC partnership will be a smart factory offering that identifies and predicts quality defects on the assembly line and alerts management.

Verizon will provide 5G and MEC technology and Deloitte will lend its industry expertise.

Other technologies underpinning the Verizon Deloitte offerings will include software defined wide area network (SD-WAN), internet of things (IoT), virtual network services (VNS), computer vision and artificial intelligence (AI).

The partners want to “close the gap between digital business operations and legacy manufacturing environments and unlock the value of the end-to-end digital enterprise,” said Verizon Business CEO Tami Erwin in a press release about the Verizon Deloitte partnership. “This collaboration is part of Verizon’s broader strategy to align with enterprises, startups, universities and government to explore how 5G and MEC can disrupt and transform nearly every industry.”

Verizon Deloitte Smart Factory Project

The initial smart factory project will use computer vision and sensor-based detection and MEC to detect quality defects on the assembly line and alert plant engineering and management in near real-time.

Verizon didn’t specify which of its 5G networks will underlie projects co-developed with Deloitte, but I would expect the partners to rely, in large part, on the Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband network, which operates in the millimeter wave band. That network supports the highest broadband speeds but over relatively short distances.

The company has received criticism for choosing to deploy 5G initially in that band because buildouts take longer; therefore, service in that band is available only sparsely. If a large customer is at stake, however, it’s likely that Verizon would be willing to target one of its next 5G Ultra Wideband deployments to include the customer’s headquarters or factory location.

In addition to providing faster speeds, 5G service is designed to provide lower latency, which will be a key requirement for real-time and near real-time applications such as the Verizon Deloitte smart factory project.

Getting the full benefits of lower-latency 5G networks is expected to require MEC, however. MEC is essentially cloud infrastructure located closer to end customers.

Verizon already has made some MEC deployments and expects to have MEC in 10 markets by year-end. The company is partnering with Amazon Web Services (AWS) on the MEC deployments.

Verizon also is gearing up indoor 5G and private 5G capability. The former is likely to be a requirement for smart factory and other projects that use 5G Ultra Wideband, as service in the millimeter wave band is not well suited to penetrating walls and other obstacles. An indoor 5G deployment based on private 5G can provide an added level of security by isolating the customer’s traffic from other Verizon wireless traffic.

Today’s Verizon Deloitte press release notes that 85% of U.S. executives in a Deloitte survey agreed with the concept that “advanced wireless is a force multiplier that will unlock the full potential of edge computing, AI, cloud, IoT and data analytics.”

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