IoT to fuel the rise of the machines

September 20, 2016

Posted by: George Malim

Todd Rigby, Rajant

In a series of blogs, Rajant Corporation’s director of business development, Todd Rigby, discusses the major role the Internet of Things will play in the rise of industrial robots and autonomous vehicles and the necessity of wireless networks in ensuring the smooth operation of such machines in various industries.

It’s been the reality for several decades in industries such as Oil & Gas, Mining, Manufacturing and Logistics that robots can work longer, harder and smarter than humans.

While the robots and autonomous applications in these industries aren’t as outwardly thrilling as science fiction’s sentient androids, they are highly effective at reducing human costs by taking over mundane, physically taxing or dangerous tasks, streamlining business operations, improving efficiency and ensuring extreme precision.

According to an article by Horizon 2020, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, Europe is one of the world’s leading regions in industrial robotics. Furthermore, the impact of autonomous applications and robots on industry means their deployment is poised to grow. A report from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) even estimates that by 2018, there will be 1.3 million industrial robots around the world.

Greater use of autonomous vehicles and robots also will increase dramatically as the Internet of Things expands. According to an A.T. Kearney report titled “Divergence, Disruption and Innovation: Global Trends 2015-2025,” the more smart technology we add to everything around us, the faster machines will ascend – “a self-propelling phenomenon.”

The report calls out several key factors that will play into greater use of robots: “… cheaper, faster and more capable sensors … more dependable, flexible and higher-bandwidth wireless networks … [and] greater safety and more efficient software.”

The need for ironclad network infrastructure especially is critical to ensuring autonomous vehicles and industrial robots operate flawlessly.

Autonomous and robotic applications allow vehicles and equipment to operate independently of humans, using sensors, software, computers and network interconnectivity to give the machine a more immersive existence in its environment. Some applications may require a remote operator, such as those involving heavy industrial machinery, while others are completely human-free.

However, for any autonomous application, a robust network is required to ensure the applications and tasks run safely and seamlessly. A delay in transmitting data between autonomous vehicles or robots and a command center, or an unexpected interruption in communications, can disrupt operations. This is true even when the interruption is measured in seconds.

The final decision point is finding a network that has low latency (the time it takes data to get from point A to point B); high throughput ( the quantity of data going from point A to point B); and continuous connectivity (no disruption in data delivery).

Wireless mesh networks, a type of wireless network, are well established. They create large-scale local wireless networks capable of multiple concurrent connections with a lot of redundancy. Kinetic mesh – a type of wireless mesh network – has been achieving momentum and has demonstrated greater adaptability to network changes on-the-fly versus other types of networking.

Operations leaders across multiple industries are increasingly implementing Kinetic Mesh wireless networks in the field to facilitate autonomous applications because the networks ensure low latency, high throughput and continuous connectivity.

In my next blog, I will discuss how these networks work and how they have demonstrated their capabilities in multiple sectors.