Verizon, as part of ‘5G Impact Challenge,’ will equip 5 Hoboken small businesses with latest wireless tech

Program, in partnership with TechUnited:NJ, to demonstrate how 5G can help retailers better handle COVID-19 challenges

Verizon will announce Monday morning that it is providing five businesses in Hoboken with 5G technology in an effort to help them solve some of their operational challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program is part of the “5G Impact Challenge” Verizon is taking on in a partnership with TechUnited: New Jersey.

Verizon officials said the companies selected for the 5G Impact Challenge will receive Inseego MiFi M2100 5G hotspots and Samsung Galaxy S10 5G smartphones, as well as a small business solutions package customized to their needs, including One Talk calling service, a BlueJeans by Verizon video conferencing account and access to Verizon’s Small Business Hub, including tips from a “Comeback Coach.”

The idea came out of Verizon’s recent Small Business Recovery survey, in which more than half of small business owners said they have concerns about staying afloat financially with social distancing regulations that limit business capacity.

Verizon officials said they are working with several tech startups to develop new, customized 5G experiences that can help these businesses overcome their challenges and better engage customers.

Some of the experiences being created include digitizing inventory and creating immersive shopping experiences, using BlueJeans to connect with customers for virtual “how-to” educational events and using Bookful to engage children through augmented reality storytelling experiences with interactive and educational features.

TJ Fox, president of business markets at Verizon, said the importance of technology in the business world has never been greater.

“In times like these, the world leans on technology to help us stay connected,” he said. “This is especially true for our local communities and retail shops, which is why Verizon has joined in this effort to show small businesses how 5G connectivity can open the door to new and immersive solutions as a way to interact with customers.”

Nicki Palmer, chief product officer at Verizon, said 5G is about opening up possibilities.

“Imagine holding a bouquet of flowers in your hands using augmented reality before you order it, or walking by a real estate store window and virtually stepping into the home right there on your phone,” she said. “5G’s massive bandwidth, superfast speeds and low latency are providing these businesses with greater connectivity and 5G guest Wi-Fi today.

“We’re so excited to help them bounce back by using the power of 5G to create new transformational experiences that can increase customer engagement while allowing them to stay safe and practice social distancing.”

Aaron Price, the CEO of TechUnited:NJ, said the program is a continuation of the group’s collaborative efforts with Verizon, which sponsored the “Smart Cities” day at TechUnited:NJ’s recent Propelify Innovation Festival.

“We wanted to work together to see what we could do to help retailers who have been so deeply affected by the pandemic,” Price told ROI-NJ. “Hoboken was a perfect place to start because, until recently, it was the only place where 5G was installed.

“We’re thrilled to be able to help them identify businesses where we are providing them 5G-enabled Wi-Fi, point-of-sale services and a variety of services. And we’ve gone to the TechUnited:NJ community soliciting other services, products and services that Verizon will help subsidize to bring to these retailers for free.”

Some of the participants include:

  • Elysian Café: As the oldest continually operated bar/restaurant in Hoboken, the restaurant offers a French bistro-style menu. With limited indoor dining, maintaining a connection for mobile point of sale operations for outdoor dining can be a challenge.
  • SOHO Flower & Garden: A brother/sister-owned business specializing in gardening and flower arrangements, the shop is looking for new ways to connect with customers and boost sales.
  • Joey No Nuts: The coffee shop, which offers nut-free drinks and food, was opened in October 2019 by a husband and wife team. The cafe now performs all of its sales at a takeout window and is looking to attract customers to sit and enjoy coffee and baked goods outside.
  • Corporate Realty: A family-owned and operated real estate business established in 1989, the company has been forced to adapt to virtual solutions and forego traditional operations.

Dominic Yun, owner of SOHO Flower & Garden, said the assistance is very much needed.

“Without the help of technology, we wouldn’t still be in business today,” he said. “Prior to COVID, we had a website, but didn’t do online sales. Thankfully, we were able to quickly shift to online orders, which helped us stay afloat. Now we’re doing in-store sales again, but we still need to monitor how many people are in the store at a time. We’re thankful Verizon and TechUnited are listening to our challenges and helping us figure out how we can use 5G to solve them.”

Basil Skaltsis, owner of Corporate Realty, agreed.

“Having detailed photos and immersive videos online are now more important than ever to engage people who are skittish about coming into the office or going to the physical locations,” he said. “By giving customers the ability to scan a listing in the window and get a virtual tour, or using BlueJeans on my phone to give customers a live tour is exciting. This program is like making a new friend that helps you out in your time of need.”

Price said he’s hopeful the program can help all small businesses rebuild.

“This is exactly the kind of thing that we’re very excited to have TechUnited:NJ involved in,” he said. “And I’m particularly proud of this because we’re doing this here in our backyard. I think it is just the beginning of what we’ll see unfold here.”

Price saluted Verizon for taking the lead.

“Verizon’s commitment to 5G is so important in how we can make sure, especially where we have the need for technology to create safe contactless environments for retailers,” he said. “I’m thrilled that TechUnited can play a small role in what, with Verizon’s help, is really going to be impactful in the small business community.”