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Greenville Business Magazine

USC, Verizon Create Innovation Experience Hub For Business, Industry, Government

Dec 13, 2022 04:32PM ● By C. Grant Jackson

Industries from manufacturing to health care to civil engineering will have the opportunity to use the new Innovation Experience Hub at the University of South Carolina, a partnership between Verizon Wireless and USC, to explore how Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband technology can transform their business. 

Located in the university’s McNair Center on Catawba Street across from the engineering school, the Innovation Experience Hub is one of five Verizon 5G Innovation Hubs where Verizon partners with enterprises, startups, universities, national labs, and government/military organizations to explore how 5G can transform business and industry. Hubs are also located at Wichita State University, Arizona State University, Emory University, and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. 

At the USC Innovation Experience Hub, students, faculty, entrepreneurs, and corporate partners will be able to collaborate to test and create new solutions powered by Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband. Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband offers massive capacity, super-fast speeds and low latency, or the time it takes data to be transferred from its source to the destination, allowing for more efficient transfer of information, including large data sets needed to power advanced applications.

Initial projects in the Innovation Experience Hub will include business solutions for industries critical to South Carolina’s economy, focusing on manufacturing, health care, and civil infrastructure.

The partnership was announced around a theme of collaboration, communication, and cooperation at an event om Sept. 16 that was attended by university officials, Verizon executives, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, and other corporate partners including IBM, Siemens and Yaskawa Motoman Robotics. 

For manufacturing, Verizon said innovators at the hub will be able to leverage 5G connectivity and solutions to help improve manufacturing processes, especially through quality sensing and defect detection. An immediate use of the technology could be to improve a visual inspection tool developed at USC that detects defects in paint jobs and car parts at auto manufacturers. 

In health care, 5G can be used to enhance emergency response by enabling remote health monitoring and real-time analysis of patient vitals. It can also be used with hospital-connected asset management, to streamline asset retrieval and dispatch operations. 

As for civil infrastructure, officials said, “Researchers will examine how 5G communications can enhance monitoring of roads and bridges with condition analytics and reporting, as well as drone-based visual inspection of roads, bridges, and buildings, using AI-driven computer vision.” 

During the announcement, Verizon and IBM demonstrated the use of a drone using the 5G technology to inspect the Blossom Street bridge and transmit real-time video to screens erected for the event in USC’s Horizon I building courtyard at Main and Blossom streets over a mile away. Such artificial intelligence technology can allow a bridge to be inspected without having to have a human team make a dangerous climb down the bridge or close the bridge to traffic.

McMaster praised the Innovation Hub as one more example of how research partnerships are elevating the state’s economy.

“South Carolina’s economic success has been built by our talented entrepreneurs and innovators, making one of our state’s premier research universities the ideal partner for Verizon on this project,” said McMaster. “Combine this with the expertise of our university researchers and the power of private sector innovation, and we can achieve great things for businesses large and small across South Carolina.”

The partnership with Verizon continues the efforts of USC’s Office of Economic Engagement to bring to the university a range of corporate partners including IBM, Siemens, Yaskawa Motoman Robotics, and Nephron Pharmaceuticals. Since its founding in 2013, the OEE has created more than $790 million in economic impact, according to the university.

“Our relationship with Verizon exemplifies the benefits of partnerships between the University of South Carolina and the business community,” said USC President Michael Amiridis. “This aligns with our focus on expanding research opportunities that solve problems and accelerate discoveries.”

Amiridis wants to establish a satellite system of innovation centers across the university system that would address specific, practical business problems. Amiridis is borrowing the innovation center model from the University of Illinois Chicago, where he was chancellor until his appointment as USC president. USC, he has said, has the same capacity to set up innovation centers at the Upstate, Beaufort, and Aiken campuses as well as in Columbia at the main campus.

The Illinois Innovation Network, run though the University of Illinois System, is a collaborative effort of public university, community, and industry-based hubs focused on driving innovation and economic and workforce development across Illinois. The University of Illinois Chicago hub focused on computing, drug discovery, and entrepreneurship.

The Experience Innovation Hub is part of Verizon’s strategy to partner with businesses, startups, universities, national labs, and government and the military to explore varied uses for the transformative 5G technology.

“Working with the University of South Carolina, we have a great opportunity to collaborate with dozens of partners to ideate on and develop new 5G-powered solutions leveraging the latest technologies, including large-scale IoT, artificial intelligence, computer vision, and augmented reality,” said Jennifer Artley, Verizon Business senior vice president of 5G Acceleration. 

“Giving researchers access to Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband, with its high bandwidth and low latency, can accelerate the innovation process, leading to new solutions that will transform how enterprises operate and grow,” Artley said. “We believe 5G is the backbone of the digital future, and that world-class research done here is going to accelerate innovation for entire industries.”

Students and researchers at the university also will benefit from working alongside private-sector partners in the Innovation Experience Hub, said Bill Kirkland, executive director of the Office of Economic Engagement. “The ability to apply the fastest commercial connectivity now available to real-world applications will give our students a competitive advantage in the marketplace while also spurring innovation and entrepreneurship from our own talented researchers.” 

The partnership will allow USC “to conduct research at the highest levels and advance the culture of innovation we have here at the university,” Amiridis said. “Our partnership with Verizon demonstrates how we can engage with businesses around the state to help our students develop skills that will allow them to apply for top-tier jobs. We want this partnership to enhance the student experience at USC and make it easier for them to find careers, hopefully ones that will allow them to stay in this area.”

The Innovation Hub is the latest project developed through the university’s Office of Economic Engagement, which earlier this year partnered with Apple to open community learning labs in the state’s rural areas.