Huawei and Festo Didactic Research 5G-Cloud Applications for Mobile Robot Systems

One of the challenges in the field of mobile robotics is the increasing processing power required on local robot systems created by increasingly complex applications. The two companies Huawei and Festo Didactic are testing swapping out software applications for mobile robotic systems using 5G-cloud solutions in a research project.

The complex computing services, which are necessary for applications in fully autonomous mobile robotic systems and consequently connected with high energy consumption, will require solutions in the future in which software applications are swapped out to modular and partly cloud-based computing systems and connected by high-performance 5G networks.

Among other things, the task in the modularization of control and regulation functions in mobile robot systems is to define which modules must necessarily be on a robot for security reasons and which can be swapped out. In the event of network outages, for example, it must be ensured that a robot can continue to perform actions necessary for safety, but that no other actions or sub-actions are performed which cannot be completely controlled by local computing power. This modularization was tested with the mobile robot platform "Robotino" from Festo Didactic and a 5G network prototype from Huawei in different applications. A 5-axis robotic arm was used that balanced a ball on a mounted tray to test the control and regulation functions via modularization of the individual functions, speed, and reaction time.

Depending on the respective application, the 5G network from Huawei ensures extremely low latency time (<10 ms) and very high data rates (up to 10 Gbit/s). The present test structure achieved minimal latency times of fewer than 3 ms.  Availability is guaranteed in real industrial environments, i.e., no participants except the users defined for a specific network are permitted. The availability guarantee and the high data rates are possible via "5G slicing”. This refers to segmentation of a 5G network with the aim of providing individual segments only to certain participants or functions.

Dirk Pensky, Head of Software Engineering, Festo Didactic SE: “In the factory of the future, everyone and everything will stay connected to rely on manufacturing services provided in industrial clouds. On the one hand, some of those services need high bandwidth to transfer information to and/or from the cloud, for example image processing and augmented reality and virtual reality services. On the other hand, industrial control services require low to ultra-low latency and highest reliability.”
Within the context of a joint research project, Huawei and Festo Didactic are setting up more application scenarios in industrial environments as examples to test whether 5G networks are suitable as a basic technology for networking production of the future.