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11th March 2022

5G out-performing Wi-Fi for Autonomous Mobile Robots

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Industrial Automation company, Kollmorgen has partnered up with Telecommunications company Ericsson to test the use of 5G transmissions on AMRs (autonomous mobile robots). They think 5G has the potential to enable new levels of Artificial Intelligence and machine learning. It could also simplify infrastructure requirements, and help to increase network stability for AMR applications.

Peter Bladh, the director of r&d at Kollmorgen, said they “want to push the boundaries of mobile robot applications.” He believes “5G holds the key to unlocking more advanced routing of intralogistics, generating better insights, improving predictive maintenance, and speeding up commissioning. It is also likely going to be the future standard of industrial communication infrastructure.”

There are many advantages to using 5G over Wi-Fi in AMR applications. 5G has greater bandwidth which can therefore extract more data, while its low latency allows for heavy computational loads to be moved to the cloud. This means the computational performance will not be limited by an AMR’s onboard processing power. Furthermore, moving to 5G could be cost-saving as advanced computations would not need pricey local servers. 

Setting up is also potentially easier with 5G infrastructure compared to the current set-up with Wi-Fi, and it could also result in more reliable coverage. 5G can also help to pinpoint vehicles in dynamic environments if artificial landmarks aren’t needed.

Kollmorgen and Ericsson’s tests have been carried out on a private 5G network as well as a public 4G network and using an AMR controlled by Kollmorgen’s NDC S platform. When the former Wi-Fi link to the vehicle controller was replaced by 5G, the existing hardware and software ran seamlessly, with the same stability. When using Wi-Fi for fast-moving mobile robots, achieving stable roaming between access points can be a challenge.

Bladh emphasises that these tests are only the beginning of Kollmorgen’s 5G journey. He says: “Our initial aim was to prove that our NDC Solution platform is agnostic to the type of communication link used and explore the performance differences between 5G and Wi-Fi. Having done so, we are confident to say that NDC Solutions is 5G-ready.”

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