- Verizon Business is opening a 5G innovation hub next month in the mixed-use planned community of Lake Nona, FL, within the city limits of Orlando. This hub is the latest in an ongoing effort from Verizon to partner with cities for "co-innovation" facilities to test 5G-related use cases.
- Innovators within the Lake Nona community will have access to Verizon's 5G Ultra Wideband network to test how the technology can be applied to industries including connected healthcare, autonomous mobility and education. The innovation hub will also include an "executive briefing center" to connect the public with company leadership and subject matter experts.
- Lake Nona-based autonomous mobility company Beep is already testing Cellular Vehicle-To-Everything (C-V2X) technology that utilizes Verizon's 5G networks in an effort to improve safety of Beep's autonomous shuttles. Those shuttles are also trialing a digital signage platform from Verizon that will help riders navigate Lake Nona with geofence-based information.
Lake Nona welcomed its partnership with Verizon in a January announcement that highlighted its goals to ensure seamless connectivity across the "living lab community". "[W]hile the technology will take time to harness, we're excited to see all the ways it will spark advancements across Lake Nona," the announcement reads.
Toby Redshaw, senior vice president of enterprise innovation and 5G solutions at Verizon, expressed similar excitement in working with a community that prioritizes a work-live-play lifestyle that's "fused with technology and enabled by technology." Redshaw said in an interview that selecting Lake Nona for this innovation hub location was a "strategically important" decision due to the community's reputation as one of the nation's first planned "smart cities."
"The one thing I'll boast about Nona is they have conquered bureaucracy," Redshaw said. "The pace at which this stuff changes, the rate at which you can implement new things, is really, really important. They've figured out how to do things properly and safely, but with a decision cycle time that would blow your mind."
Lake Nona is the home of Beep, which doubled down on improving the operations of its autonomous shuttle fleet amid the pandemic. Beep CEO Joe Moye said in a June interview that the company is "starting to evolve from just being a service provider to being a technology integrator," which opens opportunities for collaboration with Verizon.
Aside from automotive opportunities, Lake Nona is home to a 650-acre "Medical City" — anchored by institutions including the University of Central Florida Health Science Campus and the VA Medical Center — that could greatly benefit from the high speeds and low-latency of 5G, Redshaw said. He noted that developing 5G use cases within this Medical City will allow Verizon to bring significant insights to the broader healthcare community.
Verizon is actively working to expand its 5G network capabilities in other major metropolitan hubs, most recently announcing Dallas and Miami as its newest "5G MEC (mobile edge computing) cities." The company partnered with AWS Wavelength to bring advanced developer opportunities to these and other cities such as Atlanta and New York, with plans to reach 10 cities by the end of the year.
The telecom's mission to expand access to 5G comes as misinformation sows some public doubt of the technology. Redshaw is confident that 5G will be widely accepted in Lake Nona due to the planned community's "natural sort of ... tendency to dispel some of the craziness." While not every community will be as welcoming as Lake Nona, Redshaw said he is "pretty optimistic" that the public will soon dismiss widespread concerns.
"I think it's coming faster than most people thing. If you look back over history, any new technology that really caught on fast goes through this sort of cycle," Redshaw said. "People get a little more familiar with it, and then it really gets done because it has a benefit, not only for the end users but for the cost structure of the city. And that becomes a really big flywheel, and then you get to a point ... where everybody will go, 'Oh yeah, I was always behind that.'"