Robots Talking to Robots
As autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) assume increasing importance in the supply chain, more and more vendors are emerging to build these robots to complete specific tasks. Each of these companies’ creations is unique—based on their own distinctive language, algorithms and software. That makes coordination among them almost impossible.
But, imagine if robots could talk to other robots—no matter where or how they were designed and built?
Many in the field of AMRs believe that interoperability among robots will be crucial to more widespread adoption of the technology in factories, warehouses and distribution centers. Interoperability would allow robot fleets from different vendors to coordinate activities, share data and adopt the same operating conventions.
Toward that end, MassRobotics, a nonprofit focused on robotics solutions, announced the release of open-source interoperability standards for AMRs in May. The standards, which were created by an industry working group, will be tested at a FedEx warehouse in Tennessee this year with robots from multiple vendors.
Jason Walker, CEO and co-founder of MHI member Waypoint Robotics, one of the participants in the creation of the standards and the initial test with FedEx, said interoperability’s importance is only going to grow, and the standards represent an essential step toward making interoperability achievable.
“I do believe that everyone in the community recognizes how important interoperability is, and how detrimental it could be if we didn’t address it early,” Walker said. “And the fact that so many key players stepped up and made it a priority to establish a standard in cooperation with MassRobotics, I think it’s a really big deal.”