Robots sometimes go idle, need a restart or to be repositioned, or drop a part, which can cause production to stop and cost a manufacturer thousands of dollars per minute during an unexpected shut down. Often the solution is as simple as the robot needing the help of a human to keep working; however, the path to that solution may not be quite so simple.
The expertise to resolve these issues with manufacturing robots and machines is in limited supply and may be outside of the geographic area of the manufacturing plant. In complex situations, sometimes the hardware vendor is needed to get the equipment back on-line and time is of the essence. The scarcity of trained robotics personnel and limitations of existing off the shelf automation hardware together hinder the adoption of automation and robotic systems, especially for small and mid-sized businesses.
RealBotics, Inc. built a tele-robotics platform that connects humans and machines by enabling them to remotely operate robots and equipment. Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network dramatically improves the efficiency of automated systems by decreasing downtime, opening the door to new automation project opportunities through the creation of a more direct link to human support when a robot needs help, and optimizing the efficiency of robotics personnel by removing the need of physical travel.
The RealBotics platform works on broadband, 4G and 5G networks. However, combined with Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network and Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC), RealBotics provides improved real-time command and control with augmented reality for robots and equipment on the factory floor, especially for high fidelity applications, like 4k video with tactile haptic feedback.
5G, the fifth generation of cellular mobile communications, provides low latency, massive bandwidth, and high speeds, providing next-generation benefits to business. When combining the power of the RealBotics platform and Verizon’s 5G UWB network, lower latency was achieved, and real-time control and feedback of a robot was realized.
MEC is the widely accepted standard of edge computing that places compute and storage resources at the edge of the network, close to end users. A complementary technology for 5G, it provides both an IT service environment and cloud-computing capabilities at the edge of the mobile network, within the radio access network (RAN) and in close proximity to mobile subscribers, enterprises and other organizations—all with a range of networking and computing needs. With Verizon’s 5G Edge network and secure cloud partnerships, Verizon can enable real-time enterprise applications, such as tele-robotics, to scale quickly.
While using the RealBotics platform, operators can control robots and equipment using smartphones and tablets. This ability enables operators to simply download the RealBotics application on to a 5G-connected smartphone or 5G-connected tablet, to connect and control the robot.
The RealBotics platform was initially tested successfully in Verizon’s 5G lab in 2019, shaping their business offerings today and enabling them to scale with 5G MEC as more and more cities are launched. During the lab tests, RealBotics was able to test their platform over two different scenarios. One was tested over Verizon’s 5G UWB network and passed the video data through a third party’s cloud server. The second test was completed utilizing Verizon’s 5G UWB network and passed the video data through Verizon’s LLC server (the beta server for Verizon’s MEC environment).
To enable this platform, operators connect their robots to the RealBotics platform via their hardware kit and Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network. It is important to ensure one has connectivity to Verizon 5G Ultra-Wideband in the plant. Once confirmed, operators can download the RealBotics application and start controlling the robots. Once strategic planning is completed, coordination between technicians, technology staff, maintenance team, and the RealBotics team is required to ensure an implementation plan is customized to meet the needs of each individual organization and ensure a smooth transition. Training is then provided to ensure each resource adopts the technology successfully.
As a result of the Verizon 5G Lab tests, RealBotics was able to optimize its business model and expand its capabilities to serve its customers in the following ways:
• Provides a mobile real time connection of humans to robots.
• Offers lower-cost, off-the-shelf hardware to be used in production with tele-robotics due to offloading data processing onto the MEC.
• Introduces new roadmap functionality to its portfolio, such as high-fidelity applications utilizing 4k video with tactile haptic feedback as more MEC cities launch and utilizing a 5G phone as an endpoint.