Why 5G is Essential to The Future of Robotics
At the moment, latency is an enormous challenge for robot developers. Latency can be defined as the time span between when input is initiated at one point, and when it returns with error-free input from another point. Low latency is vital for high-reliability machine-centric communication for robotics.
If it takes too long for an input to be received and processed before a movement is executed, then the robot is severely limited in its capacity and functionality. Until now, the best way to transmit huge amounts of data that are required to operate robots without lagging is by keeping the robots tethered to a wired network connection.
Thanks to the 5G network, these limitations are about to be gone for good. With the low-latency connectivity that is made possible by 5G, robots can offload their computing and intelligence to edge servers that have much greater capacity and scalability, easier maintenance, and better upgradability. As a result, robots can become lighter, cheaper, and have more intelligence, including some that we would never have imagined today.
Even more excitingly, low-latency, reliable, high-bandwidth mobile networking will allow us to introduce cloud-powered AI to the equation. A robot that is connected to the cloud via 5G would be able to utilize machine learning and memory, and then finding its own way of navigating its environment and perform tasks without needing to be specifically programmed in advance.
Robots will be able to exchange large amounts of information between themselves and the factory workforce, revolutionizing the “shop floor” along with other 5G enabled devices such as wearables and technologies like augmented reality (AR).
Robotics & Industrial Automation
5G-enabled robots will also find a home on the factory floor, and likely play a crucial role in creating the factory of the future. In combination with the almost limitless processing and data storage available in the cloud, 5G communications will allow robots in next-generation manufacturing environments to do far more than they can today.
The presence of 5G will enable the creation of what the Finnish telecoms giant Nokia calls the “conscious factory” – a smart factory, equipped with sensors that provide a constant flow of information about each aspect of the manufacturing process. This volume of data would be too much to handle for current mobile networks, but one of the key advantages of 5G is the ability to ‘slice’ the network, thus making it possible to allocate the bandwidth to particular tasks.
Robotics in The Agriculture Industry
Most people know the huge potential that robotics can bring to the manufacturing industry, but not many are aware of its role in agriculture. The world’s population is growing rapidly, each year more so than the previous. The quickly expanding human population brings the challenge of food security – that is, maintaining the food supply chain so that everyone can have easy access to nutritious food in sustainable ways.
5G-equipped robots could help feed the world’s ever-growing population through advances in agriculture. The “untethering” of robots via 5G and GPS-based geolocation will allow them to perform functions that are impossible today. Robotic farm equipment could drastically cut the amount of labor needed to grow crops, making it possible for a single farmer to manage far more land – and do so more effectively. All of these can be attributed to the power of 5G, which provides a constant flow of real-time data on soil conditions, pests, and weeds for the robots to analyze, calculate, and execute.
For instance, a company named FFRobotics has successfully developed a fully-automated fresh fruit picker by combining advanced robotics with image processing software algorithms to distinguish fresh fruits & saleable goods from damaged or dead produces.
As of today, many companies have been developing a life-size humanoid robot that could be controlled in real-time. The tricky challenge of working with a fully automated robot is having it move in response to input from sensors, not direct human control. Signals from the sensors are sent to the cloud, where they are processed and instructions are sent back to the robot so it acts accordingly. Yet until now, the latency and instability of current mobile networks have made this type of operation impossible without cables. Not only does a huge amount of data have to be sent to and from the cloud, but the system is also very sensitive to lost data packets.
5G has been proven to be a gamechanger, as Ericsson managed to transmit data as a virtualization of the robot’s control systems in the cloud, and then back to the hardware, where it can carry out an operation with next to no lag. In other words, the robots has been able to act independently, without human input and no cables attached.
At present, robots are already deployed in retail, hospitality, manufacturing, healthcare, emergency services, and other areas. However, in a world where the robots need to be flexible, agile, and mobile, cables are a huge burden, and that’s the role that 5G can dive into. With 5G, robots will be better in what they do today, and more importantly it will unlock other possibilities. With more development, such robots could find uses in dangerous sites such as oil mining, disaster-stricken areas, and even outer space, thus making life better for the human race.
MCS Test are an approved UK partner for VIAVI