Verizon, partners show off first Innovation Center products

Firm works with startups, wireless giants to build cutting-edge products for Verizon's LTE network

Verizon Wireless Tuesday showed off dozens of early-stage LTE wireless products at its new Verizon Innovation Center in Watham, Mass.

The products included some built by small startups that took advantage of the wireless expertise of Verizon engineers working at the center. The companies are not charged for the consulting work in hopes that the products will utilize Verizon's LTE networks.

All the companies that work with Verizon engineers at the center get to keep patent and intellectual property rights for the products they build there, and don't have to share revenue garnered from them with Verizon, said Brian Higgins, executive director of LTE ecosystem development for the carrier.

"We don't even ask the innovators to run their products over Verizon LTE," Higgins said. "AT&T could do it."

What Verizon ultimately gets out of the relationships is an expanded LTE universe, where many products will eventually run over Verizon's LTE network and generate wireless revenues for the carrier, various partners explained.

Robert Klingle, CEO at Nomad Innovations, said his team worked with Verizon engineers for 700 hours to bring LiveEdge.tv to its early product stages as an alternative wireless newsgathering technology for broadcasters.

The product is currently in field trials in Phoenix, Arizona, by sports reporters covering the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, he said.

The product is designed to send video from a TV truck to a newsroom at about one-fourth the cost of using a microwave, Klingle said.

Having spent 700 hours with Verizon engineers perfecting algorithms for transmitting high definition video over LTE likely means that it will use Verizon's LTE network, Klingle said.

"But all I really want is the biggest, baddest, broadband I can get," he said. "When I started with Verizon, I told them they can't be exclusive."

But Klingle did note that Nomad would have to spend hundreds of hours with another carrier to port LiveEdge.tv to its network, thus giving Verizon's LTE a strong edge.

The Verizon Wireless engineers "were always there for us" through the development process, he said. He said the process worked much better than that of another U.S.-based wireless provider he would not name. Nomad left that unnamed carrier to work with Verizon, he added.

Higgins said that Verizon studied many innovation centers run by companies around the globe, and decided it was best to strip away patent, IP and revenue concerns. "When we analyzed other innovation processes, we found many companies haggling over IP, wasting time," Higgins said. "We have no rights for IP and we allow our partners to build their products."

LiveEdge will cost $42,500 for a small 1.5 pound box that fits on the back of a television camera.

The box, which measures about 4 x 5 inches, acts as an LTEtransmitter to send video to a $15,000 LTE box in the studio. The studio box can communicate with up to four field boxes. LiveEdge.tv will charge 35 cents a minute for data transmission.

In full, the LiveEdge price is about one-fourth of the cost transmitting news video over microwave technology, which has been in use for 40 years, Klingle said.

Higgins said about 30 products products have been developed from partnerships Verizon has struck with various large and small companies. The partners range from small companies like Nomad to wireless giants such as Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson.

Many of the devices have yet to go on sale, though most have been demonstrated at wireless trade shows. The products include a specially equipped car that has five video cameras that can be linked to an LTE smartphone, giving a user the potential to "watch" his car when it is parked in a distance parking lot.

In the Innovation Center, Verizon also showed off a video chat application that uses two LTE smartphones and will be ready for commercial use in 2012.

A combined antenna and LTE radio built by Alcatel-Lucent in the center was also shown today. The radio is about the size of a Rubik's Cube, and is designed for use in buildings and areas where there isn't room for a large antenna so wireless connections are hard to make.

Verizon also showed off a telepresence robot with a video camera and display from VGo Communications. The robot already been used for distance learning by patients too sick to attend classes.

A Cisco Cius tablet inserted in a desk phone was also demonstrated.

Innovation Center officials also demonstrated a small device elegantly called a "plug computer" that can control thermostats and lights in a home from remote locations over an LTE network. Higgins said about 20% of the products at the Innovation Center will probably never make it to market and are considering "visionary." Those products will help drive other ideas, he said.

Of the remainder, 20% are expected to go on sale soon, and 60% will go to market in six to 18 months, Higgins added.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen , or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com .

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