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Robots need better internet to keep moving

Robots need better internet to keep moving
Robots need better internet to keep moving

Logistics companies say investment is needed to keep things moving – in robots that is. Warehouse automation is nothing new, but as the Wall Street Journal reports, robots, drones, and other technology tools are struggling to find one thing – a fast internet connection. 

Robots at distribution centers across the US zoom around on the shop floor, picking up goods quickly. Self-driven forklifts pick up palates and place them at various points throughout the warehouse. Basic is not enough to meet the robot’s operational performance. 

A computer engineer at Virginia Tech, Harpreet Dhillon, says autonomous vehicles and robots have to deal with a range of visual data to allow these latest technology tools to operate reliably. A home appliance Haier Smart Home says to deal with weak signals, the company has to go to site with antennas – and this is to assist its Wi-Fi for better connectivity. Even installing the internet outside the actual distribution is being done in some places. 

Companies rely on private networks

The problem with unreliable internet is that a robot moving a palate may come to a standstill, and goods may be damaged. An autonomous truck driving in a distribution truck yard will just stop operating. To fix this problem, warehouses need to look at better network options. Private wireless could be the perfect solution.

Several companies are relying on private wireless. Principal analyst at Technology Business Research Chris Antlitz explains, “A private wireless network provides broadband connectivity, similar to a public wireless network, but is owned and controlled by the organization that built or purchased it. As well as at individual industrial sites, private wireless can be deployed for connected sites – field area networks – or even nationwide–wide area networks. For instance, a rail operator will need to connect its train stations and shunting yards, as well as the trains on the lines. Logistics operators would need even broader coverage, including its warehouses and everywhere their crews deliver.” 

Etteplan steps in to help with a solution 

Finland-based software company Etteplan, which designs private networks for all industries, says reliability, availability and security are benefits of private networks. The company also says when it comes to Industry 4.0, private networks enable essential targets such as comprehensive condition monitoring, increasing automation, and monitoring material flows and equipment. “When equipment maintenance needs can be predicted and planned based on measurement data, unexpected production downtime can be avoided. The objective is also to improve safety at factories,” says Etteplan. 

‘Industry 4.0’ refers to the next phase of digitization of the manufacturing sector driven by trends, which include data and connectivity, human-machine interactivity, and improvements in robotics.  

About the author

Sharl is a qualified journalist. He has over 10 years’ experience in the media industry, including positions as an editor of a magazine and Business Editor of a daily newspaper. Sharl also has experience in logistics specifically operations, where he worked with global food aid organisations distributing food into Africa. Sharl enjoys writing business stories and human interest pieces.

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