By now, virtually (pun intended) everyone has heard about the Internet of Things. But, what about the Internet of Robotic Things (IoRT)? Read on for a crash course in this futuristic-sounding technology.
What is IoRT?
IoRT revolves around the idea that intelligent devices can fuse together sensor data, monitor events, and use distributed and local intelligence to control and manipulate things in the physical world.
IoRT has three main components, which include:
- An Intelligent Device
The intelligent device is often referred to as a robotic thing that has embedded monitoring and sensing capabilities. The device can collect sensor data from other devices fused together for the robot’s purpose.
- A Second Intelligent Part
IoRT has another “intelligent” part that the robot can use to leverage distributed and local “intelligence”. In short, it can analyze data collected from the events that it monitors and those that it has access to.
- A Third Component Which the First Two Components Serve
Finally, the last component of IoRT can determine what actions to undertake. Actions can be manipulated or controlled using a physical object in the real world.
Autonomous Robotic Systems
Autonomous Robotic Systems are vital when it comes to enabling the technology needed for the capability advancement of individual IoRT devices, along with the integration and creation of collaborative fleets.
These systems are expected to operate in the human environment seamlessly. At the same time, they must also integrate technologies that provide senses similar to what humans use. In other words, IoRT devices can operate with humans, while humans can interact with cyber, digital, and virtual worlds.
The autonomous robotic systems related to IoRT includes:
- Object transportation and manipulation;
- Reconfigurable robots;
- Distributed learnings; and
- Motion coordination.
Technologies that Enables IoRT
An autonomous robotic system that is part of IoRT requires the integration of other technologies to mimic human senses. A number of technologies – including artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, wireless communication, and swarm robotics – work alongside IoRT.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is crucial for the advancement of IoRT. AI algorithms enhance the ability and performance of robotic things by optimizing sensor fusion capabilities. These capabilities include:
- Using microphones for hearing;
- Using chemical sensors to mimic the sense of taste and smell; and
- Using pressure sensors to detect pressure or touch.
IoRT platforms use different layers of AI techniques and methods to provide insights and analytics that maximize the robotic things’ individual functions.
Robotic things use perception devices such as cameras for video data compression, segmentation, and video image preprocessing. With the use of AI collaborative training, robotic things are made better aware of context and scenery. As a result, robotic things can gain better accuracy in terms of object recognition.
Virtual and Augmented Reality
IoRT enables Increased cognitive capabilities via the integration of immersive technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) into human robotic device interfaces. The same case also applies to the interaction between IoRT platform system interface and robotic devices.
Cognitive technologies using AI algorithms have increased the need for IoRT system trustworthiness. This can be achieved several ways, such as:
- Strengthening end-to-end security;
- Securing portable data and knowledge; and
- Protecting electronic identities.
AR and VR technologies are used in IoRT mainly for navigation, support, and learning functions; this is because VR provides environment simulation while AR adds computer-generated information to ensure temporal and spatial sync between the physical world and the real world, allowing users to immerse themselves in real-time interactions.
IoRT connectivity is focused on wireless communication technology. Essentially, Internet connectivity combines the interaction between wireless technologies such as 5G, AI methods and techniques, and IoT. For IoRT applications, it’s important to develop robotic things that have strong and resilient cellular or wireless communication, where various network protocols such as 5G, LTE and 4G can be used.
Swarm robotics and technologies focus on the study of how intelligent systems are composed of multiple autonomous robots used to perform collective tasks. These technologies are now combined with IoRT developments to create self-organizing characteristics to be applied to multi-robot systems that require scalability, robustness, and flexibility. These technologies are utilized by IoRT applications that create collaborative networks and exchange information among different IoRT fleet devices.
Since IoRT is still relatively new, its applications are in the early stages as well. Despite that, IoRT is already being applied in numerous ways and across various industries:
- AGVs – IoRT apps can be integrated into different types of devices such as Automated Guided Vehicles, also known as AGVs.
- Logistics – Service and humanoid robots are now being used for delivery and logistics. These robots can be used to move objects such as tools, pallets, and boxes in industrial settings and storage areas.
- Healthcare – IoRT is being used for monitoring, maintenance, and inspection purposes in the healthcare industry.
One of the biggest hurdles IoRT faces involves human safety concerns. Because of this, market growth for IoRT has been slow. In addition, IoRT lacks regulation frameworks and common standardization, which can make investors wary about it.
IoRT is still in its infancy, just as IoT was a decade ago. Over the coming years and decades, though, IoRT is expected to explode. A world teeming with autonomous robots – which is what many of us probably imagine when we think of IoRT – may not be so far-fetched after all.