Kollmorgen, a maker of motor products for the robotics industry, is exploring how 5G can enhance mobile robots in partnership with Ericsson.

The duo performed tests with early results that Kollmorgen dubbed promising, as it looked to evaluate 5G capabilities versus Wi-Fi. Ericsson and Kollmorgen ran tests using a private 5G network setup as well as trials in 4G public network environment.

One of the key aims was to show that Kollorgen’s NDC solutions are communication agnostic, and the company said the trials – while just the start – prove they’re 5G-ready.

They used an Autonomous Mobile Robot, controlled by Kollmorgen’s NDC S platform. The company’s NDC products consist of hardware, software and navigation capabilities that help boost autonomous guided vehicles (AGVs) to improve efficiency in warehousing and manufacturing facilities. Its products are used by vehicle-makers to create driverless logistics automation solutions, and counts as Toyota Material Handling Europe, Jungheinrich AG, Mitsubishi Logisnext Europe Oy (Rocla) among customers.

The Sweden-based manufacturer said it swapped a Wi-Fi communication link with 5G in the Kollmorgen CVC700 onboard vehicle control unit. The results showed hardware and software ran as stable over 5G as on Wi-Fi and reported a seamless handover to 5G antennas.

“This is an important observation, as stable roaming between access points is a recurring challenge while configuring Wi-Fi networks for fast-moving mobile robot applications,” Kollmorgen said in a press release.

Industrial users, including for advanced robotics, are one of the key verticals being targeted for 5G and private networks and Kollmorgen touted several reasons why it’s interested in the technology, particularly in place of Wi-Fi.

A few highlights were that 5G can enable advanced AI/machine learning capabilities, make infrastructure requirements less complex and deliver increased network stability, which Kollmorgen believes will improve efficiency and reduce costs for its partners and end-users.

“5G holds the key to unlock more advanced routing of intralogistics, generate better insights, improve predictive maintenance, and speed-up commissioning,” said Peter Bladh, director of R&D at Kollmorgen. “It is also likely going to be the future standard of industrial communication infrastructure.”

Compared to Wi-Fi, the company said higher bandwidth allows for more data to flow and be extracted, with compute heavy computations leveraging the cloud.

“That means that the computational performance would not be limited by the onboard unit of the Mobile Robot, but instead the cloud – which can enable the next level of Computer Vision and Deep Learning,” Kollmorgen continued.  That could translate to more cost savings and efficiencies by removing the need for local servers. And it said 5G could be much easier to deploy than Wi-Fi, while providing greater coverage and capacity.

“Autonomous material handling requires both powerful and secure connectivity, and a robust ecosystem of application providers. Ericsson is proud to partner with Kollmorgen to enable Automatic Guided Vehicles with industry grade reliable connectivity from Ericsson Private 5G, ensuring smooth and safe operations” said Thomas Noren, head of Dedicated Networks at Ericsson in a statement.

The two have synched up before as Kollmorgen joined Ericsson’s Industry 4.0 partner program as an independent software vendor in April.

Ericsson introduced a packaged private 5G offering last year, including access to the telecom equipment vendor’s radio portfolio and dual-mode core to enable 4G and 5G to run simultaneously.

It’s gearing up for increased focused attention on the enterprise space, which executives highlighted during the Swedish vendor’s most recent earnings call. To enhance its enterprise efforts, Ericsson has made heavy acquisition investments, including last year’s purchase of Cradlepoint and its pending deal to buy Vonage for $6.2 billion.

Industrial users are also a prime target for rival Nokia, with CEO Pekka Lundmark recently pointing to a large opportunity with 14 million industrial campuses worldwide.

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