Qualcomm’s latest offerings to fire-up robot ecosystem

With advances in technology, the use, and role of robots is rapidly increasing. Robots are being deployed across both, the industrial and service segments. To take advantage of this burgeoning market opportunity, Qualcomm unveiled its newest solution for robots, drones and delivery robots with integrated 5G support that offers more productive, intelligent, and advanced machines to improve business operations, enhance manufacturing productivity, and drive innovation.

5G and AI central to robotics

Connectivity is essential for monitoring and control. While robots will increasingly work autonomously, real-time monitoring and control will continue to be essential. This can mean varying amounts of data being exchanged between robots and servers, and this will often need to be done with low latency.

Integrating 5G can help robots be more sensitive to their surroundings, respond faster, and more intelligently. Furthermore, it opens new possibilities to control and operate robots from anywhere, which is helpful in driving industrial automation applications enabling concepts like Industry 4.0.

Delivery robot shipments to rise 10x by 2025

The rising demand for contactless deliveries is increasing demand for autonomous delivery robots and drones. The on-ground autonomous delivery market is set to grow at a CAGR of more than 33% between 2021 and 2025, with shipments expected to see 10x growth by 2025 according to Counterpoint Research. This will drive more demand for cellular connected AI chipsets. And while drone deliveries are still far from commercial readiness, the solutions have been undergoing tests for a long time now and the industry has made advances in AI and autonomous technology. 5G is a natural connectivity option for both types of delivery robot.

Leading companies in multiple industries are using autonomous ground vehicles (AGVs) to reduce dependence on human workers wherever it makes sense. This trend will progressively permeate to slower-adopting organizations and more future factories will be similarly equipped in the coming years.

Qualcomm ups the power with new robotics platform

  • The RB6 is Qualcomm’s latest offering for robotics applications. It joins the existing RB5 platform which comes in several forms – see the table below.
  • Qualcomm claims the RB6 provides best-in-class AI and machine learning capabilities to power future autonomous robots, drones, and delivery robots.
  • The newer solutions offer more autonomy for machines, better real-time connectivity through 5G, onboard intelligence for safer urban air mobility solutions. And it will quicken the deployment pace for ground robots in industrial applications.
  • According to Qualcomm, the existing RB5 platform has already been deployed in several devices including unmanned aerial vehicles. The RB5 Traverse is being used by SwiftBot delivery robots from Pudu and a new quadruped robot dog with capabilities to climb stairs with deliveries.

RB6: New premium chipset for robots

Qualcomm Robotics RB6 Platform - Counterpoint Research

  Qualcomm Robotics RB6 Platform

The new Qualcomm RB6 platform is designed to make ground-based autonomous mobile robots more capable in carrying out tasks such as last mile deliveries, warehouse automation and Industry 4.0 factory applications. It supports 70-200 Trillion Operations per Second (TOPS). This platform will harness 5G technology and enables the development of low-power AI robots. It has the added advantage of being able to connect with latest generation 5G networks, supports mmWave and is future ready with an option to upgrade it with 3GPP Release 17 and Release 18 compliant modules.

Qualcomm says the platform enables improved real-time data collection, fleet coordination, and autonomous operation of the robots to help robot manufacturers improve their products. The platform includes developer kits (SDK) that can be used to create several robotic solutions like autonomous mobile robots, delivery robots, and drones, using 5G. The platform is integrated with customizable hardware, software, and AI tools to support the end-to-end deployment of robotic applications.

RB5: The affordable yet powerful 5G AI Chipset with flying capabilities

Qualcomm RB5 AMR Reference Design - Counterpoint Research

Qualcomm RB5 AMR Reference Design

Qualcomm’s existing RB5 platform is integrated into the RB5 AMR reference design to provide an affordable solution for enterprise and industrial robotics applications, it offers edge AI and 5G technology to provide autonomy and intelligence to robots.

Qualcomm’s RB5 and Flight RB5 platforms help to integrate AI into ground and drone robotics at a better scale. Using Flight RB5, drones can be operated more efficiently and can be controlled over longer flying distances.

The platforms are designed to create low-powered robots by utilizing 5G and AI capabilities. The RB5 platform uses Qualcomm AI engine which is equipped with Hexagon Tensor Accelerator and dedicated hardware block for computer vision. The Hexagon Tensor engine allows up to 15 TOPS compared to 3 TOPS delivered by the previous, RB3, platform.

Comparison between Qualcomm Robotics Platforms

Comparison between Qualcomm Robotics Platforms - Counterpoint Research

Source: Qualcomm, Counterpoint Research

Key Takeaways:

  • The new RB6 platform adds new features and functions that will allow robot manufacturers to expand the capabilities of autonomous and industrial robots; potentially also leading to the development of robots that are more consumer-specific.
  • It indicates that 5G technology will grow across segments, supporting improved AI and compute power. There is a business opportunity for cellular network operators to collaborate with the robot manufacturers and provide improved connectivity enhancing the productivity of robots.
  • Moreover, the newer solutions can be integrated into more consumer-facing categories such as education and companion robots that are gaining significant traction in the market.