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Cloud Robotics for 5G Enabled Manufacturing

Mobile Cloud Robotics (MCR) is one of the many exciting 5G opportunities being investigated by Ericsson and our development partners.

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Ericsson Research in Pisa, collaborates with two partners specifically: - an excellent academic centre, the Bio Robotic Institute of Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, and an innovative company making robots for many applications, Zucchetti Centro Sistemi, both in Tuscany. We are already testing realistic MCR scenarios where traditional robots, programmed to carry out specific functions will be replaced by new robots connected to the cloud. These new robots only include low-level controls, sensors and actuators and having their intelligence in the cloud means they have access to almost unlimited computing power. Altogether, they are more flexible, more usable and more affordable to own and operate. The connection between MCR robots and the cloud is provided through the mobile network, and will benefit from the expected 5G extremely low latency connections. For the MCR demo we´ve built a logistics use case in industry (see picture). We brought an earlier version to the Super Mobility 2015 in Las Vegas, which you can read about here

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In that demonstration the robots shuttle materials to the right place at the right time moving in an “industry-like” environment. A smart facility management system dynamically assigns tasks to the robots and controls their execution. The robots do not need guides on the floor, and avoid collisions with people and objects thanks to remote real-time processing of sensor data and images.

 The MCR robots can be monitored through an app running on a tablet. Using the app, personnel can request services and monitor their status, as well as receive information on how to interact with incoming robots. The conceptual idea behind the demonstration can be easily extended to a modern factory covering an area up to several square kilometres. With a typical radius in the order of tens to hundreds of meters in manufacturing plants, several radio cells are required to operate simultaneously to serve the whole campus. At the same time, industrial applications need seamless, reliable and fast connectivity between the cloud and each individual robot in order to support high bandwidth and low latency. Cellular technologies such as 4G are already suitable to meet these requirements, since they can guarantee a smooth, seamless and lossless handover when robots move between radio cells and, at the same time, deliver good control over interfering signals from other machines and devices. 5G will bring even better communication performances enabling new potentialities for mobile cloud robotics. And now, at Mobile World Congress 2016 in Barcelona we show our cloud robots in a robotized logistics operation in a scale model of a vinery. Using an App, a human supervisor asks robots to transfer pallets of specific wine types from the bottling plant to the warehouse and then to the loading area for the shipment. We will hopefully see you at our booth in Barcelona!

Marzio Puleri
Luca Giorgi
Francesco Giurlanda

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