Ocado teaches robots to talk over 4G

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World’s largest online-only grocery retailer develops 4G-based protocol to communicate with thousands of robots powering its new automated warehouses

Ocado recently revealed more details about the 4G-based wireless protocol used to control the robots powering its new warehouses. These highly-automated warehouses will be offered as part of a managed service called the Ocado Smart Platform which enables international partners to build scalable, sustainable and profitable online retail businesses.

the Ocado Smart PlatformThe protocol marks the first deployment anywhere in the world to use the unlicensed 4G spectrum for warehouse automation and guarantees a connection ten times per second to each of the 1,000+ robots roaming around the warehouse – all working within a 150 meter radius.

While building a robot can be a relatively straightforward task, creating a swarm of thousands of robots and making sure you can communicate with every single in a tenth of a second is a whole different ball game. We have worked closely with Cambridge Consultants to develop an innovative system that takes advantage of modern wireless communications principles but has secret ingredients that tailor it to our specific environment. Since the protocol works in the license-free spectrum, we can also deploy it at a moment’s notice in any location around the world. 
– Adam Green, wireless team leader at Ocado

Moreover, the wireless protocol can be re-purposed for other IoT applications that mandate reduced communications delay between many devices: vehicle-to-vehicle connectivity for smart cars, air traffic control systems or large scale industrial systems.

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