Drives and Controls Magazine
Next-generation robotics platform is ‘first to support 5G’
Published:  23 June, 2020

The wireless technology giant Qualcomm has announced what it describes as the world’s first 5G- and AI-enabled robotics platform. The RB5 platform consists of hardware, software and development tools that bring together the company’s expertise in 5G and AI “to empower developers and manufacturers to create the next generation of high-compute, low-power robots and drones for the consumer, enterprise, defence, industrial and professional service sectors”.

An accompanying development kit “will ensure developers have the customisation and flexibility they need to make their visions a commercial reality”.

At the heart of the platform is a dedicated robotics processor coupled with an AI (artificial intelligence) engine that deliver 15 Tera operations per second, allowing it to perform complex AI and deep learning workloads. The processor also incorporates a powerful image signal processor that can support seven cameras simultaneously, and a dedicated computer vision engine for enhanced video analysis. The ability to support seven cameras could be useful for applications such as Slam (simultaneous localisation and mapping), object detection and classification, autonomous navigation, and path planning to perform tasks safely in complex environments.

A companion module supports communications at 4G and 5G speeds, helping to pave the way for deploying 5G in robotics and other intelligent systems. The platform will also offer support for industrial communications standards such as Profinet, Ethernet/IP, Modbus-TCP, EtherCat and TSN (Time-Sensitive Networking).

A motor control “mezzanine” will support control of motor technologies including brushed and brushless DC motors, stepper motors and servomotors.

Qualcomm's Dev Singh with RB5 development kit: helping to create more powerful, secure, and intelligent robots

Qualcomm says the new platform is already being evaluated by more than 20 early adopters, while more than 30 companies are developing the hardware and software needed for robotic applications. One of them is TDK, with which Qualcomm has entered a strategic collaboration under which TDK will supply motor control hardware and sensor technologies for the platform.

“By applying its deep-rooted mobile systems expertise to the robotics industry, Qualcomm Technologies is helping to enable the creation of more powerful, secure, and intelligent robots than ever before,” says Dev Singh, the company’s senior director for business development and head of autonomous robotics, drones and intelligent machines. He predicts that the new platform “will help accelerate growth in a wide array of robotics segments such as autonomous mobile robots (AMR), delivery, inspection, inventory, industrial, collaborative robots and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), enabling Industry 4.0 robotics use cases.”

Qualcomm expects the first commercial products based on its new platform to be reach the market later this year.