Verizon, HERE Technologies team on 5G-enabled navigation tech

Verizon and HERE Technologies announced a multi-year partnership to develop new connected services, including navigation and location, that rely in part on Verizon’s 5G network infrastructure.

Initial work includes two proofs of concept developed in the fall of 2019 targeting collision avoidance for pedestrian safety and Visual Positioning Service (VPS) for better location identification and navigation. The proofs of concept will be showcased this week at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

In addition to Verizon’s 5G network and multi-access edge compute (MEC) platform, the proofs also rely on HERE’s location data technology and autonomous vehicle expertise and products.

Hervé Utheza, HERE’s chief data strategy for the Americas and head of Media, Advertising & Telco, said in emailed comments to FierceWireless that the partnership is focused on developing the underlying infrastructure and technology for the two companies’ B2B customers to build upon.

So commercial customers from industries like automotive, transport and logistics, among others, can use the technology, but actual development and commercialization of consumer-facing products will depend on those customers’ plans, Utheza said.

The collision avoidance proof of concept is meant to enhance pedestrian and driver safety by creating a vehicle-to-network (V2N) communication system using Verizon’s 5G capabilities with HERE’s Live Sense SDK to identify vehicles, pedestrians, and other objects via a vehicle-mounted phone. 

Utheza noted that this example is part of the class of Cellular-V2X offerings, and that collision is a specific V2X service that relies on data processing in the mobile device and or the connected car, with processing done at the edge of the mobile network. 

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That’s where data from HERE’s Live Map product would be sent to Verizon’s 5G Edge, and then analyzed by a collision avoidance AI to predict likely travel paths to warn vehicles of potential collisions.

Utheza said that the underlying technologies developed by Verizon and HERE could be integrated into a standalone aftermarket solution, or also be white labelled, “and/or integrated in the mobility services offerings of an automotive OEM.”

“Auto OEMs are working with HERE Technologies already, and develop complex in-car navigation, ADAS experiences, tied together with mobility services,” he said, adding that the market will continue to evolve as car-makers “seek and adapt to consumer demands, all the while focusing on what matters on the road: safety, quality of driving experience, and ease of use.”

In terms of VPS technology and services, the companies pointed to applications like better location data for ridesharing pick-up/drop-offs and delivery services.

Utheza noted that position devices with precision is a complex technology and user experience problem, while VPS is designed to enable near real-time position with sub-meter accuracy via image capture. The proof of concept uses HERE’s three positioning algorithms to analyze images or videos, over Verizon’s high-band millimeter wave 5G network and 5G edge.

“5G will bring precision to industrial use cases, transportation, V2X, and consumer apps,” Utheza said.

VPS capabilities are already employed by services today, but is usually not the only technology. The companies said it’s complementary to other location technologies like well-known GPS because it’ doesn’t rely on a remote server and isn’t impeded by things like tall buildings. It can also be adapted for outdoor or indoor use.

“VPS will advance greatly as 5G is deployed at scale,” Utheza said, noting the ability to identify objects from a moving phone “is powered by 5G low latency, high throughput, and edge-processing of the imagery detected.”

“This collaboration with HERE further proves Verizon’s commitment to innovating around and improving location services and pedestrian and intersection safety,” said Laura Cochran, Head of Product, Verizon Location Technology, in a statement. “By harnessing the power of Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband and 5G Edge, along with HERE’s proprietary 3D positioning algorithms, we are driving together toward a safer and more precise future.”

While the proofs of concept will be on display at CES, Utheza said the companies plan to pursue additional connected services, which will be announced and showcased later over the course of the partnership.