On Wednesday, Qualcomm announced the world’s first Robotics RB5 platform with on-device AI, machine learning, 4G, 5G connectivity support, superlative computer technology, and intelligent sensing capabilities.
The QRB5165 Qualcomm platform is customized for robotic applications with a computer architecture combined to provide 15 Tera Trillions of Operations per second, the 5th generation Qualcomm AI. Engine – with its new Hexagon Tensor Accelerator
“The QRB5165 has an octa-core Qualcomm Kryo 858 matched with an Adreno 650 GPU and a digital signal processor,” said Ray Wang, Constellation Research principal analyst.
It is “super-fast,” Wang further said. Its processing rate is incredibly fast as 2 Gigapixels per second; it can record 8K video at 30 fps and easily handle 200-megapixel images.
“When paired with the AI engine, it has the speed to improve industrial robots, military applications, and even retail and hospitality scenarios,” Wang added. “You get seven concurrent video cameras that can-do things like object detection and classification, self-navigation, and path planning.”
The company offers a vast array of offshore design solutions, including system-on-module solutions and flexible chip-on-board designs with the Qualcomm Robotics RB5 platform and Qualcomm QRB5165 Processor. The solution is available in various options, such as temperature ranges for commercial and industrial use and an extended lifecycle opportunity until 2029.
“The battle for the autonomous enterprise starts with 5G Robotics platform in hardware,” Constellation Research’s Wang remarked. “Qualcomm has done a good job assembling an ecosystem for the RB5.”
“Qualcomm Technologies is the world’s leading wireless technology innovator with a strong foundation in AI, mobile computing, and connectivity. By applying its deep-rooted mobile systems expertise to the 5G Robotics industry, Qualcomm Technologies is helping to enable the creation of more powerful, secure, and intelligent robots than ever before,” said Dev Singh, senior director, head of autonomous robotics and business development, drones and intelligent machines, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.
“With the Qualcomm Robotics RB5 platform, Qualcomm Technologies will help accelerate growth in a wide array of robotics segments such as autonomous mobile robots (AMR), delivery, inspection, inventory, industrial, collaborative robots and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), enabling Industry 4.0 robotics use cases, and laying the foundation for the UAV Traffic Management (UTM) space.”
According to Qualcomm, approximately twenty companies, including drone maker Skydio, LG, China’s delivery robot and drone maker, NXT Robotics security robot maker, and Meitun, had an early look at the technology and are interested in using it.
In addition to various 5G Robotics applications, more than 30 hardware and software companies work on ancillary technology. Others include AirMap Drone Mapper; Canonical, which publishes Ubuntu; InOrbit Robot Fleet Manager; and Intel for depth and tracking cameras, with RealSense technology.
Qualcomm Technologies has entered a strategic partnership with TDK to increase the Qualcomm Robotics platform’s capabilities to enable the next generation of robotic solutions and designs. TDK has added state-of-the-art sensor technology to enhance robotics applications to provide global sensor and motor control solutions as part of the Qualcomm Robotics platform.
Commercial applications depending on the RB5 are expected by 2020, says Dev Singh, Qualcomm’s Head of the robotics, drones, and intelligent machines business. That is rational because Francis Sideco, a senior analyst with Tirias Research, said he had “worked with over 50 operators and partners well before the announcement.
Robotics development platforms “will be key to accelerate edge computing, the Internet of Things, and automation,” he noted. “The post-pandemic playbook shows a huge interest in improving robotics, customer-facing automation, and ambient experiences,” Wang further noted.
Qualcomm “is pretty reliable in their predictions,” Rob Enderle, principal analyst at The Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld. “They’re used to a smartphone cadence, and this timeframe would easily fit within the 6-month smartphone window.”
Qualcomm, Rob Enderle, Senior Expert at the Enderle Group, said Qualcomm is “very reliable in their predictions.” They are used to a smartphone cadence, and this timeframe would easily fit within the 6-month smartphone window.
The key selling point for the RB5 would be that it “has low power consumption for such a high-capacity SoC,” commented Chris Taylor, a Strategy Analytics research director. “In terms of the total cost of ownership, the RB5 probably hits a sweet spot for many of the applications Qualcomm talks about compared to existing solutions using more conventional chips,” Taylor said.
Qualcomm Robotics RB5 Hardware Dev Kit
Thunderstorm, a joint venture of Thunder Software Technology Co, a Chinese company, and Qualcomm (Guizhou) based on the QRB5165 processor, is taking pre-orders for the Qualcomm Robotics RB5 hardware development kit. The Kit contains a development board focused on robotics that complies with the open hardware spec 96Boards to support a range of mezzanine board expansions to develop proofs-of-concept and rapid prototyping.
It supports the Robot Operating System (ROS)2, Linux, Ubuntu, and has pre-configured drivers for different sensors, cameras, and networks. The board supports Qualcomm AI engine 5th generation. It can perform between -340 and +105 degrees centigrade. Via industrial protocols such as EtherCAT and time-sensitive networking (TSN), communicate and support protection at almost every level.
The Kit will be available soon, possibly in July 2020.
Nvidia’s ISAAC SDK is the main rival of the RB5
“Nvidia’s is the best known,” Enderle said. “Their Jetson offerings are similar in concept.” Intel “has the making of one used in their drone swarms, but they haven’t packaged it up as well yet,” Said Enderle.
Though, the combination of low-power AI and connectivity “is unique to Qualcomm,” told Kevin Krewell, a leading analyst at Tirias Research.
Robotics is compute-intensive, so CPU makers “have the advantage of home court,” said Holger Mueller, Constellation Research’s principal analyst.
That said, “The biggest issue at present times is the lack of common robotic automation standards,” Mueller said.
“There’s a lot of interest in 5G in robotics and drones,” Krewell said. 5G has lower latency and higher bandwidth, “which can reduce connectivity lag.”
However, there is some debate as to whether 5G will take off in the USA. The Federal Communications Commission of the United States plans to boost 5G, but there are conflicting technology market reports. “One of the impacts of COVID-19 is the need for more remote interactions,” noticed Tirias Research’s Sideco. “Robots and drones help with this demand and those with 5G and AI even more so.”
Some people assumed the pandemic would push 5G demand, but others figured that gradually building 5G networks is not going as fast as expected. “The pandemic slowed manufacturing, and some wrongly concluded it spread COVID-19, which has delayed deployment and resulted in the destruction of some 5G towers,” Enderle said. However, “We should have decent coverage of major cities and some rural areas in the US by year-end.”
The lack of coverage would not be a big problem as “5G robots will use 4G, WiFi, or no access at all,” added Taylor.