Autonomous robots & data transfer: going beyond self-imposed WiFi limitations

warehouse robots

Author: Andrew Dierks, Director of Product Management at Conductix-Wampfler

The past few years have seen significant investment in advanced automation solutions like mobile robot technology, particularly in industrial and warehouse environments. To put that in a greater context, the mobile robots market, including AGV and AMR solutions, is expected to reach more than $18 billion by 2027. There are a few key reasons for this growth. Mobile robot solutions offer many benefits in industrial workspaces, from improved service quality, quicker operations, reduced errors, increased load capacity and decreased delivery times.

Most importantly for this discussion, mobile robots can also be treasure troves of valuable data. They can capture telemetry data like positional information, sensor inputs, wheel speeds and other environmental parameters that help robots make decisions. Robot operators can also get quite innovative with the information they capture, like interjecting with images and video for object recognition and quality control. Mobile robots can be trained to navigate specific paths, make certain decisions and manage particular tasks – but it takes a lot of data and inputs to make it happen.

To support a seamless data capture and transfer process, you need a high-speed connection. For many business owners and operators, the default is WiFi. However, WiFi has its limitations, and as supply chain, manufacturing and industrial leaders look to innovate in 2023, it’s critical to explore other solutions and think beyond this increasingly outdated standard.

WiFi Limitations

Robust data transmission from AGV and AMR technologies enables teams to leverage the flow of information, collect data that can provide valuable operational insight, and inform data-driven decision-making. As organizations begin exploring the types of data they can capture and leverage from their mobile robot technologies, it’s important to consider all the ways to make that process as seamless as possible.

If your business solely relies on WiFi, you may operate fine without any noticeable issues. However, if you have goals of capturing more robust data beyond telematics, like video or image information, it’s possible you’ll run into a few challenges as you start handling more significant amounts of data.

These can include:

  • Low transmission speed
  • Bandwidth limitations
  • Data security concerns
  • Lack of reliability with wireless connectivity
  • Dead zones, RF noise, and other environmental interferences
  • System-wide impacts of one component’s outage
  • Networking expertise required to maintain reliable transmission
  • Difficulties with adding signal conductors and other equipment to facilitate data transfer
  • Cost and downtime associated with the modernization of existing systems

So, what are the options if your business needs a high-speed connection to reliably, safely, and quickly relay data from autonomous mobile robots? As an industry, it’s time to think beyond the self-imposed limitations that WiFi presents and consider how hardwired connections can fit into an effective data strategy.

The Sky’s the Limit

Powerline communication is one potential solution for robust data transfer from autonomous robots. This type of solution ensures secure, real-time communication without the major sacrifices or limitations that can come with a wireless connection like WiFi.

Imagine taking all the data from your autonomous robots while they’re docked at a charging station, analyzing it, and processing it in real-time with your engineering team. Think of this process like your robots autonomously plugging themselves into an ethernet network. With this hardwired connection that feeds directly to AMR and AGV charging stations, you can securely collect vast amounts of information and route it from the remote device to your central server. If your business is equipped with a high-speed, reliable connection, then the sky is the limit in terms of how much data you collect and analyze.

Ultimately, AGV and AMR data collection and transfer is not yet a widespread industry challenge. Instead, it’s an operational process where automation engineers are limiting themselves in what they can do due to the restrictions of today’s communication technology. When you bypass the constraints of WiFi, you open up a world of new possibilities in terms of what data you can capture and how quickly you can turn it into business insights.

The more data you can gather from your mobile robots, the better guidance you’ll be able to give them, and the better they’ll work for your business. You just need an innovative vision and the right tools to get started.

Written by

Andrew Dierks