Industrial Electronics

5G will bolster the capabilities of commercial outdoor robots

07 March 2019

The coming introduction of 5G networks is expected to bring significant benefits to numerous markets outside of just traditional smartphones.

The low latency and cloud intelligence that 5G is expected to bring are two reasons why the technology is poised to change how robots, particularly those deployed outdoors, communicate and operate, according to new data from ABI Research.

Shipments of 5G robots are expected to reach 570,000 by 2027 largely deployed in mission critical and business critical settings. Outdoor applications that will be enabled by 5G connectivity include public safety and first responders, critical asset inspection, last-mile delivery and transportation, precision agriculture, field extraction and haulage.

Previously, high-speed broadband connectivity through Wi-Fi or fiber has been available to robotic systems in indoor environments. Outdoor commercial and industrial robots are often fully autonomous devices with onboard intelligence. 5G will allow these robots the capabilities to be upgraded.

“Existing onboard capabilities, such as object and people detection, path planning and optimization can be shifted to the cloud to benefit from a larger set of data lake,” said Lian Jye Su, principal analyst at ABI Research. “At the same time, robotics systems will have access to capabilities that could not be previously hosted on existing systems. At present, remote control appears to be the focus, but the real game-changers will be conversational artificial intelligence and swarm intelligence.”

The low latency of 5G will allow robotics vendors to move parts of the machine’s onboard intelligence to the cloud while enterprise users will be able to connect whole fleets of robots to the cloud, Su said.

ABI Research said in order to take advantage of the benefits 5G will bring to robotics, vendors should work with connectivity and chipset manufacturers in the design and prototyping phase to integrate LTE and 5G connectivity from the onset. One such platform was released by Qualcomm at Mobile World Congress recently boasting future upgrades to support 5G.

“In the long run, 5G will become the de facto connectivity method for outdoor robots,” Su said. “As a global standard, 5G enjoys economies of scale. This brings down the total cost of ownership of 5G networks and the price of 5G modem chipsets, allowing robotics developers to integrate 5G connectivity with ease.”

Learn more about ABI’s new data findings with its Industrial, Collaborative & Commercial Robotics service.

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