Move over, 4G. 5G is all the rage now! Nowadays, this next generation wireless system is one of the most talked about technological evolutions. The general public immediately relates it to faster internet on their smartphone, but there is also a great deal 5G can do for other applications - like robotics. As manufacturers struggle to find workers, automation of processes using robots is key. Installation and maintenance of IT infrastructure for automation can be costly, but 5G can lower this cost. Let me walk you through the benefits of 5G for your robotic applications.
But first: what is 5G?
5G is the fifth generation of wireless technology systems, thus 4G’s successor and the new standard for wireless internet. Why? 4G had already paved the way for all kinds of new applications and mediums of mobile internet consumption, but it no longer suffices for all new developments and evolutions. Simply put, 4G is not fast enough. The Internet of Things is advancing at a fast pace and needs faster wireless internet for improving innovative applications like self-driving cars, remote surgery and augmented reality.
How 5G beats the previous generation
Speed is the first tremendous benefit of 5G. Network speeds up to 10Gbps are estimated, as opposed to 1Gbps for 4G. Advocates even claim 5G can be up to twenty times faster than its little brother. 5G wireless internet will beat your cable internet at home; that’s why it’s compared to fiber-optic cables and it’s dubbed “wireless fiber”.
And there’s more. With 5G, you can expect a much lower latency. Latency is the time it takes for the server to respond when you’re trying to download information. The target latency of 5G is 1 ms, as opposed to the 50 ms latency that’s measured for 4G. The overall responsiveness will thus drastically improve using 5G.
Lastly, this new generation is expected to have a massive capacity in terms of data traffic.
How 5G enables cloud robotics
Robots are an enormous asset to the manufacturing industry already, and with 5G, they will be of even greater value. Here’s why. Modern robots have become smart and more able to adapt to their environment and to changing circumstances. To do this, they need a large amount of sensors, which takes up a lot of bandwidth. Using 5G, this sensory input can be transferred to the cloud, where computing capacity is virtually unlimited.
This process is called “cloud robotics” and connects a cloud-based intelligent data processing to the robots and the motion controllers. This exchange of information between the cloud, the robot and its attached systems is only possible with high speed and low latency. With more mobile wireless robots entering factories and the increasing reluctance to connect devices to internal factory networks, a new connection to the cloud needs to be established.
Why 4G or WiFi aren’t enough
I’ll be blunt: 4G is too slow, and WiFi is not reliable enough. Wireless internet has overlapping channels that can interfere and create noise. As the robot would move around, it would cross different WiFi hotspots and lose time trying to reconnect to the internet. 5G, however, is fast, not as sensitive to interference and more able to provide quick and easy handovers when the robot moves between cells.
In manufacturing, production lines, robots and sensors can all be wirelessly connected in the cloud to work together by sharing and aggregating data for large scale analysis. Here’s where the bandwidth and latency advantages of 5G is of utmost importance.
What 5G means for automation using Pickit
When the intelligence of the robot motions and the object detection will be stored in the cloud, the robot and its camera will be able to move around freely without the need of heavy processors nearby. This will make the already flexible Pickit product even more flexible and it will account for a light-weight and mobile set-up with a very small footprint.
And there’s more. With the integration of this new technology, the Pickit camera can be connected to its software in the cloud over a 5G connection without worrying about network and processor maintenance or installation. This makes setting up such an installation even easier and less costly than today, which will open up this kind of solution to the growing demand at manufacturers worldwide.
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