NEC perfecting mobile robots and 5G networks
As organizations around the world continue to digitally transform, mobile robots and 5G networks are becoming highly sought after to enable greater productivity. Mobile robots in particular are increasing in demand around the world with Asian countries hoping to utilize the technology mostly in manufacturing plants.
In recent years, the introduction of robots for transporting materials has accelerated due to labor shortages and large warehouses. However, even when mobile robots have been introduced to automate transport work, it has been necessary to reduce traveling speed to ensure safety, and the improvement of transport efficiency has become a challenge.
A key enabler for mobile robots to work with minimal human intervention is the network in ensuring automated processes have low latency. The 5G network is expected to boost the use of automated technology as it not only promises lower latency but also enables greater coverage.
With that said, NEC Corporation has made some major announcements this week involving mobile robots and 5G networks. NEC will be developing control technology that doubles the efficiency of autonomous mobile robots (AMR) in warehouses while maintaining a high level of safety. NEC plans to put this technology into practical use by March 2024 and to have it installed in NEC’s cooperative AMRs in Japan.
NEC has developed “risk-sensitive stochastic control technology” that can control autonomous mobile robots and meet safety demands. This has been accomplished by utilizing models that can express uncertain factors that vary from one site to another, such as sensor measurement errors and
differences between simulation results and actual robot movements. Moreover, this new technology has adopted methods that have been used in actuarial finance.
The mobile robots can autonomously determine when to travel at high speed, and over the shortest distances, such as when traveling in low-risk locations without workers, objects on the floor, or other obstacles. Conversely, robots will travel at a low speed when using routes that are determined to be high-risk locations.
From mobile robots to 5G
NEC has also signed a definitive agreement to acquire privately-held Blue Danube Systems, Inc., a U.S.-based provider of CBRS/4G/5G RAN products and AI/ML-based software solutions that help mobile operators address the challenge of 5G network buildouts and spectrum optimization.
As a leading Open RAN provider, NEC is recognized for its end-to-end Open 5G solutions and system integration capabilities. The company continues to invest in the 5G business through organic and inorganic initiatives, aligned with its “Mid-term Management Plan 2025.” While this acquisition expands NEC’s customer support capability and assets in North America, it also adds to the breadth of its Open RAN solutions portfolio to support the needs and demands of customers.
“NEC has committed to a leadership position in Open RAN network development and this move extends our physical reach and innovation roadmap to deliver on that commitment. Blue Danube’s 5G products complement our Open 5G solutions portfolio, enabling us to meet growing market demands and accommodate diversified use cases,” said Shigeru Okuya, Senior Vice President, NEC Corporation.
Blue Danube will join NEC with an innovative team that builds onto NEC’s global 5G R&D capabilities, and the company’s patented beamforming technologies will further enhance NEC’s leadership in 4G and 5G Radio Units based on O-RAN specifications. Additionally, it will accelerate NEC’s expansion of RAN software assets to help customers address issues related to spectrum efficiency, RAN optimization, and reducing network OPEX.
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