From INSIDE BUSINESS By TREVOR METCALFE
A Norfolk startup now has the chance to get a head start working with 5G wireless technology as part of a recent $1 million design challenge award.
Communications giant Verizon recently named Ario as the grand prize winner in its “Built on 5G Challenge.” In addition to $1 million, Ario employees will be able to use Verizon’s 5G technology to test and improve their augmented reality software.
“5G will bring wonderful abilities to our platform and to our customers,” said Ario co-founder Nate Fender.
Ario, which was founded in 2016, designs augmented reality software to help improve training and maintenance in the manufacturing, energy and utility sectors.
Companies need better ways to help train and guide new employees to use complex systems, Fender said. And, many companies are digitizing training instructions, manuals and other documents.
Ario’s solution is an app that allows workers to identify and assess production line and maintenance issues in real time. Using a phone or tablet camera, the app can overlay instructions and even allow an offsite expert to view the process.
“Really what we’re after is making that a really easy and simple thing to do in these complex environments,” Fender said.
After learning about the Verizon challenge, Fender said Ario leaders realized the power and capabilities 5G would add to their software. Delivering immersive 3D models to users means the app is pulling large data files from remote servers to phones and tablets. 5G, which can offer download speeds up to 20 times faster than 4G mobile networks, would vastly improve the app’s performance.
As part of the challenge rewards, Ario employees will spend six weeks in Verizon’s 5G test labs, measuring 5G benchmarks against the current 4G standard.
“By bringing these companies into our 5G labs, where we collaborate with universities, startups and enterprises to co-create 5G concepts, we’re giving them access to all the tools they need to create truly transformational experiences that will reshape entire industries,” Verizon Chief Product Development Officer Nicki Palmer said in a news release.
In addition to the Verizon money, Fender said Ario completed a seed funding round of $2 million in August. The U.S. Air Force also awarded Ario a $1.5 million Small Business Innovation Research grant around the same time.
Trevor Metcalfe, 757-222-5345, firstname.lastname@example.org
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