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Interoperability initiatives move forward
The need for interoperability among mobile robots from different vendors has been discussed for years. Hardware and software providers must get their systems “to play well together,” or major users will look elsewhere, said Aaron Prather, former senior technology advisor at FedEx Express and keynote speaker for our 2022 Robotics Applications Conference.
As fleets of autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) continue to grow, the likelihood of an AMR carrying a tote interacting with a floor-scrubbing system or an autonomous lift truck has also grown. Getting multiple robots to communicate has become a matter of safety and efficiency.
In 2022, companies such as Arendai, Formant, InOrbit, NVIDIA, and Vecna Robotics addressed the need for interoperability, whether in software orchestrating the movement of robots and human workers, or as part of fleet optimization and standards efforts.
Attendees at the AMR and Logistics Conference could see demonstrations of both the MassRobotics AMR Interoperability Standard and the European VDA 5050 standard. The event this past October was hosted by the Association for Advancing Automation (A3).
The MassRobotics standard allows AMRs to share basic information such as location and capabilities, but it doesn’t compete with proprietary mapping software. In the works, Version 2.0 will include information on charging status.
With VDA 5050, which was originally developed for German automakers, an operator can issue commands to different robots in a heterogeneous environment.
Other interoperability efforts include the OpenRMF free reference platform. Time will tell whether more companies can work with multiple standards, as InOrbit has.
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