Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) are being deployed in factories, warehouses and fulfillment centers around the world at a rapid pace. It will be crucial that robots from multiple vendors integrate seamlessly in their support of safe and efficient operations across a wide range of workflows in these environments. The MassRobotics AMR Interoperability Working Group, comprised of AMR vendors, engineers and AMR end-user companies, has published a consortium-built standard to guide robotic automation interoperability and take a step toward this future.
MassRobotics, an independent, non-profit center that serves to educate, inspire and bring robotics initiatives, investments and companies to life, announces the release of the MassRobotics Interoperability Standard. The new initiative enables Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) from multiple vendors to integrate and work together seamlessly to support safe and efficient operations in global factories, warehouses, distribution and fulfillment centers. Members of the working group and contributors to the newly introduced standards include Vecna Robotics, 6 River Systems, Waypoint Robotics, Locus Robotics, Seegrid, MiR, Autoguide Mobile Robots, Third Wave Automation, Open-Source Robotics Foundation and others.
“The release of version 1.0 of the MassRobotics Interoperability Standard is a crucial milestone for the industry,” said Daniel Theobald, CEO of Vecna Robotics and co-founder of MassRobotics. “It’s this pre-competitive collaboration and combined thinking from the greatest minds in the field that drive the sector forward exponentially faster than any one vendor could otherwise.”
According to Logistic IQ, the global AMR and Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) market is expected to reach $14 billion by 2026, with more than 270 vendors leading the manufacturing and logistics space. AMR adoption in particular is growing at an incredible rate, with a CAGR of roughly 45 percent between 2020 and 2026.
Until now, fleets of robots from multiple vendors have had no standard way to coordinate activities or share information. The MassRobotics AMR Interoperability Working Group was formed in 2020 to address these challenges and simplify the adoption of autonomous mobile robots into the market. The group’s newly issued standard allows robots of different types to share status information and operational conventions, or “rules of the road,” so they can work together more cohesively on a warehouse or factory floor. The standard also enables the creation of operational dashboards so managers can gain insights into fleet productivity and resource utilization.
“Functional and practical standards are a critical next step for robotic automation,” said Tom Ryden, executive director, MassRobotics. “Our AMR Interoperability Working Group has diligently focused on development and testing of these standards, which are needed now, and we fully expect will evolve as the robotics industry and end-user companies implement them. We encourage buyers to begin looking for the MassRobotics Interoperability Standard compliance badge when making purchasing decisions.”
End-users from major shipping and distribution centers have validated the need and provided requirements for this standard. The first use case will be trialed at a FedEx facility where AMRs from Waypoint Robotics, Vecna Robotics and others will be operating in the same production area.
“I applaud the Working Group for their efforts and dedication in laying out these first steps toward AMR interoperability. The diversity of the team shows that the industry can work together in finding solutions around this issue,” said Aaron Prather, senior advisor, FedEx. “Our interoperability validation in Memphis later this year will be a great real-world application of Version 1.0’s capabilities and will help to provide feedback to the Working Group to potentially demonstrate what future steps may need to be taken to make further improvements.”
“Support for this effort has been broad, and we are indebted to numerous companies and individuals for donating so much time and expertise to the development of this standard,” said Theobald. “This important technology lays the groundwork for future innovation and concrete value for customers worldwide.”
The new open-source code allows end-users to build dashboards to monitor fleet status and efficacy across mixed-vendor teams of AMRs. The AMR interoperability standards can be accessed here.
Interoperability is becoming more important than ever as more AMR vendors emerge with viable, production quality solutions. If you are a robotics end-user, it is likely that you already have multiple vendors onsite or on your deployment roadmap. Unfortunately, the currently state of the market is such that each vendor will come with its own programming software, fleet management software and operational reporting solution. In addition, each robot will have a unique charging station and charging optimization solution. A variety of vendor are emerging to help some the interoperability problem, but can those systems work together? Likely not yet.
The MassRobotics Interoperability Working Group was founded to help bridge the gap in this emerging technology. If this is a concern for you, then the new standard will be an excellent source of information. If you feel that you’d like to contribute to the evolution of the standard, then you should get involved with the working group.