When I was researching the effect of 5G on robotics, the movie ‘Clash of Titans’ came to mind. In this film Hades unleashed the ancient Titans upon the world against Perseus. Well, Perseus wins - as heroes often do - and the Titans were eliminated with the help of Zeus. Our modern day Titans: robotics, AI and Machine Learning will be hard to stop – even for Zeus.

This new revolution is also being referred to as "the robotics renaissance” - a well-matched team of robots-cobots, cloud computing, AI and 5G are leading this exciting ride. Our lives will be impacted in many ways and in many fields, hopefully in a positive way. Sectors like tele-surgery, manufacturing, agri-tech, autonomous vehicles and public transportation will flourish and many more will follow.

I really believe that the 5G benefits of high bandwidth and low latency - and other technologies such as fog computing - will enable higher performance robotics such as drones, industrial and agricultural robots, and autonomous cars to be operated safely. And these technologies will cause a fundamental shift in society as people are relieved from mundane jobs and can move on to focus on more creative, innovative, intellectual and ultimately more rewarding tasks.

Ref: ITU (International Telecommunications Union)

The hourglass and the tube

So yes, 5G could unteather the robots. Metaphorically, 4G is like a traditional hourglass: the sand flows slowly through a restricted section from top to bottom. 5G is more like a straight tube: the sand flows freely and straight down with practically no latency.

However, getting a 'straight tube' like this is not an easy process. For reasonable operation with 5G, many things need to be set and achieved - some hardware needs to be invented and a substantial amount of infrastructure must be completed. No doubt those hurdles will be progressively eliminated by 2020 and completed by 2025.

When we start enjoying this cherry blossom era, data speeds will be increased from 100mbps up to 10 Gbps and latency to sub-milliseconds. mmWave spectrum will be connected via many more individual access points. The connection density for a given area will be thousands of times higher than today.

This kind of advance offers mind-blowing opportunities for robotics. Utilizing 5G communications, global navigation and satellite systems will open new horizons for robots and enable them to do things they can’t do today, roaming freely. A good example of what 5G could do for robotics was demonstrated by Nokia.

With very low latency and higher capacity communication, tele-surgery or tele-diagnostic will become part of our daily lives. Cars will be truly autonomous, very safe and offer the enjoyment of being driven. A great big chunk of public transport and intercity trucking, snow ploughing, garbage collections and even humble lawn mowing will shift to the autonomous driving field.

In the field

Agriculture could benefit from development in 5G, fog computing and AI. Agri-bots can monitor the soil composition, recommending necessary corrections taking into current account weather conditions. They will recommend the correct time to prepare soil, the best kind of the seed and optimum time to seed. They will be able to create recommended schedules for watering, pruning, and advise on the amount of targeted fertilizing and best time to harvest.

They will use a data fusion of weather forecasts, statistics and the experiences of other farmers around the world. When the time is time to harvest, autonomous harvesting robots and trucks will be deployed. Produce will be delivered either direct to consumer or post-processing plants or packaging units. Farmers will benefit from an expert advisor and skilled automated labour helping them to maximise their output.

An efficient, centrally controlled swarm of the robotic units will carry out works on the streets and public spaces, changing service and utility industries almost beyond recognition. The cloud-based real-time collaboration of robots opens multiple opportunities for service robotics for different scenarios.

Global giants in the industry (like Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia, Verizon, SoftBank,, Deutsche Telecom, Siemens, Samsung, ZTE, Qualcomm, Bosch etc.) are coming together to deal with new market structures and position themselves in the lucrative and rapidly growing robotics ($ 6-7 billion by the end of the 2020) market fuelled by 5G.

So, no need to worry, Perseus - it looks like this time the Titans will not harm humanity. Instead they will help us in our daily lives and will be our most excellent companions. I am sure that the common-sense of the human spirit will tame the Titans this time round. How is Andromeda doing?

Author
Mehmet Kaya
Principal Mechanical Engineer

Based in our Boston office, Mehmet has a strong interest in developing products for industrial automation, electro-mechanical systems and R&D design projects, from concept creation to building prototypes and testing. His previous career includes working for major industrial companies as a product development engineer.