This Is What Happens When Optus Combines 5G With Robotics

This Is What Happens When Optus Combines 5G With Robotics
A scene from I, Robot. So not quite what Optus is doing. Image: 20th Century Fox

Optus has on Thursday performed a demo of 5G mmWave URLLC capability for enabling advanced automation. Basically, robotics such as machinery used in warehouses that can operate without being plugged in, and that can operate safely alongside humans.

To break that all down we have to start with Optus‘ vision. The telco is envisaging an Australia where robots and automation are taking centre stage, changing the face of factories. Optus reckons robots with embedded wireless connectivity will be able to integrate in a seamless and reliable manner, thanks to 5G.

“This is truly a cordless revolution in the making – untethering robots, sensors and other machines from fixed cables,” they say (yikes).

To test out the potential for 5G to replace fixed wire connectivity in an industrial setting, Optus and Ericsson, as well as safety sensor-focused company SICK (real name) and Universal Robots hosted a demo. This demo was testing 5G mmWave Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC) technology.

5G, like 4G, is made up of many different technologies all working together. One such tech that brings 5G to life is mmWave. mmWave (millimetre wave) is a short-range, high-frequency network tech. URLLC, Optus says, is the “next wave of 5G capabilities that is going to be a game changer for enterprise”.

Basically, swapping out fixed wire networks for wireless – sort of like how headphones are now without an AUX jack.

The promise of this tech is the ability for robots (or at least robotic machines) to be located wherever, providing they have access to 5G signal.

“This technology was introduced to 5G to support use cases with stringent requirements for extremely low latency and high reliability, including industrial automation, public safety, remote diagnosis/surgery, emergency responses, autonomous driving and smart energy systems,” Optus says.

In the demo shown in the video above, safety sensors monitored a robot that was performing box pallet operations at regular speed. When a human approached the robot, real-time communication from the sensors to the robot over 5G URLLC caused the robot to slow down or stop instantly, helping to ensure the safety of the worker.

This near-instant response with guaranteed reliability is simply not possible through traditional Wi-Fi or pre-5G mobile networks. The future is wild.