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A key focus will be on the development of drone technology. Source: Shutterstock

Nokia sets up robotics for ‘social good’ lab at Indian college

  • The Finnish technology company is partnering with Indian Institute of Science for Research for robotics research
  • Research will explore the development of “socially relevant” use cases 
  • A key focus is the development of advanced drone technology for agriculture and emergency services

Nokia is setting up a robotics lab at the Indian Institute of Science for Research. Dubbed the ‘Nokia Centre of Excellence for Networked Robotics’, the center will serve as a hub for research into robotics, advanced communication technologies and artificial intelligence (AI).

A particular focus will be the development of “socially relevant” use cases across areas like emergency management, agriculture and industrial automation. The aim is to promote engagement between academia, startups and industry stakeholders. The initiative also aligns with Start-up India, an initiative started by the Indian government in 2015.

On announcing the launch, Nokia said emerging technologies such as 5G have potential to enable an “entirely new array of use cases with a profound societal impact.”

“With Nokia’s rich innovation heritage, we aim to engage with the bright and young minds at the Institute to nurture and advance the latest technologies that can benefit communities.

“We are confident that it will lead to the development of ground-breaking use cases.”

The Centre of Excellence will comprise a state-of-the-art network robotics lab, which will be available to the Institute’s community and partners for advanced research projects involving and designing next-gen networks and applications of AI for solving pertinent social problems.

The collaboration will see Nokia leverage its expertise in robot orchestration, robot network controller and human-robot interaction. The Institute, meanwhile, will engage its cross-disciplinary faculty and researchers, and provide its in-house expertise in algorithms, drones and robotic systems.

Some of the use cases which the tie-up plans to explore include using drones for remote management of agricultural orchards to promote water conservation and avoid human contact with pesticide, as well as the use of drones employing 5G-enabled wide-area network to gather situational information to help first responders, and drones that can help anticipate crop fires.

Drones in India

As noted by Computer Weekly, drone laws for non-defence applications have recently eased up somewhat in India. The country’s Ministry of Civil Aviation has given exemptions to government agencies for drone operations in the fight against COVID-19. Now, programs in development by airline SpiceJet, Google-backed Dunzo, among a slew of others, have the greenlight to operate on an experimental basis until September 30 this year.

This will allow those operators to pilot drones beyond the visual line of sight for transportation of goods, with the limited experiments serving as a basis for further laws which could allow long-range drone operations, such as for deliveries. Currently, laws limit drone operations to line of sight operations, limiting applications to surveillance.

“The ultimate relevance of technology is to find solutions to improve the quality of our lives,” said Professor G Rangarajan, Director at Indian Institute of Science, commenting on the partnership.

“Collaboration with a global technology leader, Nokia, will go a long way in helping our students to gain knowledge and insights and make significant contributions to the development of innovative and societally relevant 5G use cases.

“This is a critical initiative and it will help us move closer to finding technology-powered solutions to enrich our lives.”