Automated systems are changing our world daily. New technologies make their way into workplaces annually, changing the way a company operates and changing the face of its workforce. Sometimes, automated software crunches the numbers. But, increasingly, in engineering applications, the changing face is a robot.

 

Robots are the 24/7 worker. No lunch breaks. No toilet breaks. No sick leave. They do, however, need a unifier, to enable them to work together. They need a network.

 

Robots networks are required to facilitate their functions; a network architecture that is fast enough and robust enough to deal with the many automated systems connected to it – all working simultaneously.

 

A 4th generation cellular network will make way for a 5th generation with higher speed bandwidth and newly designed industrial applications. New protocols will be invented so that systems can talk to each other and work in unison. It’s all about the Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) and what it is doing for the automation of processes in business.

 

The industries most prone to IoT revamping in the short-term are industrial environments and agricultural industries. As new technologies make their way into the industry, regulations and legislation need to be put into place.

 

EIT Stock Image

Credit: Sensor-Technik Wiedeman GmbH

 

Sensor-Technik, a German engineering company, specializes in connecting mobile machines to IoT-like networks. They say that “monitoring surroundings” and “situation awareness” will be very important in the coming years, as automated machines continue to be manufactured.

 

How these networks - that facilitate the aforementioned ideals - will integrate with robotics, is something that robotics manufacturer KUKA is closely monitoring.

 

Interconnected and automated construction and mining machinery is increasingly being employed in industry. There is no surprise, therefore, that safety at these sites is improving; there are fewer personnel to harm and the opportunity for human error is reduced too.

 

Rio Tinto’s autonomous mines

EIT Stock Image

Credit: BBC/Click

 

Rio Tinto, a mining company with mines in Australia and around the world, has two iron ore mines in Western Australia that use some of the latest in automation technologies. Robot drillers, driverless iron ore transporting trains and automated rock breakers are all being employed. The company claims that their 73 automated haul trucks are 15% cheaper to run than manned vehicles, and inevitably more efficient.

 

The mine is able to function twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. They are reliant, however, on their control centers, where humans are required.

 

John McGagh, head of innovation at Rio Tinto told BBC’s Click, commented that 5% of the world’s energy goes into the crushing and grinding of rocks. He went on to explain why their automated systems are invaluable; the efficiency of these systems results in energy cost savings.

 

There remain, however, many industrial applications where personnel and automated robots work alongside each other. This is indeed gratifying, but can present uniquely dangerous safety situations.

 

The legislation

The European Union have tried to keep ahead when it comes to robot and human coexistence. EU-members have called for the Legal Affairs Committee to secure industry-wide and EU-wide safety standards for robotics.

 

The monitoring of how robotics interposes into daily human life is the focus of the new legislation. EU members believe that “guaranteeing a standard level of safety and security” is vital, particularly with the speed at which the robotics industry is evolving.

 

Rapporteur, Mady Delvaux said:

“A growing number of areas of our daily lives are increasingly affected by robotics. In order to address this reality and to ensure that robots are and will remain in the service of humans, we urgently need to create a robust European legal framework.”

 

Safety standards for collaborative industrial robots already exist thanks to the EU. The standard is named ISO 10218, which covers: Safety of Industrial Robots, Part 1 and Robot systems and integration, Part 2. In the coming months and years, robotics standards will burgeon and become embedded into law to prevent accidents, but also to ensure that the right steps are taken should they occur.

 

The EU Committee believes that the ethical standards and liability of accidents involving automated vehicles (including self-driving cars) must be developed directly. The reality is that mobile robots will integrate into everyday human life imminently.

 

 

Works Cited

Krüger, Jens. "Sensors – Situation – Safety." MobilTron 2017. Web. 01 Feb. 2017.

"Robots: Legal Affairs Committee Calls for EU-wide Rules." News | European Parliament. Web. 01 Feb. 2017.

Tees44. "RioTinto Automation- BBC Click." YouTube. YouTube, 16 Nov. 2014. Web. 01 Feb. 2017.