MassRobotics AMR Interoperability Standard Facilitates Collaboration Between Autonomous Mobile Robots


TL;DR breakdown

  • MassRobotics AMR Interoperability Standard enables collaboration between autonomous mobile robots from different manufacturers, boosting adoption in warehouses and factories.
  • The standard allows robots to share capabilities and basic information while maintaining proprietary mapping systems for navigation.
  • Version 2.0 of the standard is being developed to establish a mission communication API and prevent conflicts in optimized routes.

Interoperability among autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) is a growing concern for larger users utilizing different robotic systems. Addressing this need, MassRobotics has developed the AMR Interoperability Standard, which allows AMRs from various manufacturers to share their capabilities and exchange essential information such as location and ongoing tasks.

The primary objective of this standard is to enable different mobile robots to collaborate effectively within the same warehouse or factory floor. However, it is important to note that the standard does not require vendors to disclose their proprietary mapping systems used by the robots for navigation.

Interoperability Standard Driving Robotics Adoption and Collaboration

While compliance with the standard is not mandatory, it is expected to boost the adoption of robotics by end-user companies significantly. Tom Ryden, the executive director of MassRobotics, expressed that as the market matures, the ability for multiple robots from different vendors to operate in the same environment will become increasingly important. For instance, how can a robotic forklift and a floor cleaner communicate and coordinate their activities?

Version 1.0, future updates, and working group efforts

MassRobotics released Version 1.0 of the interoperability standard in May 2021, making it available for any automated vehicle manufacturer to implement. The documentation for the standard can be accessed on GitHub. The first public demonstration of the MassRobotics Interoperability Standard took place at the Association for Advancing Automation’s (A3) 2021 AMR and Logistics Conference in Memphis. FedEx hosted the demo at its DART lab, a facility for testing logistics automation systems.

During A3’s 2022 AMR and Logistics Week in Boston, MassRobotics and its partners announced that they are working on Version 2.0 of the standard. This updated version aims to establish a mission communication API to prevent multiple robots from attempting to use the same optimized route simultaneously.

The MassRobotics AMR Interoperability Working Group, comprised of robotics and software vendors such as InOrbit, Vecna Robotics, and Locus Robotics, drives the standards effort. MassRobotics, an independent non-profit organization, supports initiatives to advance robotics in Massachusetts and beyond. The working group aims to enable companies to deploy robots and other equipment that can seamlessly work together within the same warehouse or factory space.

To ensure widespread adoption, the working group initially focused on keeping the protocol simple, prioritizing sharing basic robot-to-robot information rather than task management. The standard allows other software, such as a fleet management system, to understand what robots do. However, the current version does not address aspects such as task management, power management or serve as a master control for all robots.

MassRobotics interoperability standard and VDA 5050

The MassRobotics Interoperability Standard organizes data in a format that facilitates effective communication among various automated platforms in an industrial setting, including AMRs, automated forklifts, and automated guided vehicles (AGVs). Furthermore, human workers can also share standardized data, such as their locations, using mobile devices.

The information shared by each robot includes its current location, intended destination, a unique identifier number, a timestamp for data collection, the robot’s manufacturer, model, and dimensions, operational state (active, idle, available, or not available), as well as its speed and direction. It is essential to note that the standard does not encompass fleet management, vehicle navigation, or safety systems. Therefore, vehicles complying with the standard would still require separate navigation and safety systems.

The MassRobotics working group has decided that the standard will not address hardware changes, such as shared chargers or other types of robots like robotic arms. MassRobotics welcomes interested parties to join their ongoing efforts to refine and enhance the interoperability standard.

In comparison, the forthcoming European standard for AMR and AGV interoperability, VDA 5050, focuses on establishing a standardized interface between mobile robots and back-end software, including central control systems. Developed through a collaboration between the VDMA (Association of German and European Mechanical and plant engineering companies) and the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), VDA 5050 aims to enable AGVs and AMRs from multiple manufacturers to work together using a common fleet management system seamlessly. While both standards serve different purposes, they are not conflicting protocols, potentially allowing a mobile robot to utilize both.

As robotics advances, interoperability standards like the MassRobotics AMR Interoperability Standard and VDA 5050 play a crucial role in facilitating collaboration and driving the widespread adoption of autonomous mobile robots across various industries.

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John Palmer

John Palmer is an enthusiastic crypto writer with an interest in Bitcoin, Blockchain, and technical analysis. With a focus on daily market analysis, his research helps traders and investors alike. His particular interest in digital wallets and blockchain aids his audience.

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