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Ocado unveils robot technology that powers its automated warehouses

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Ocado unveils robot technology that powers its automated warehouses
Ocado unveils robot technology that powers its automated warehouses
Ocado has set out how it uses 4G-based wireless protocol to control the robots that power its new highly automated warehouses.

These warehouses form part of a managed service, the Ocado Smart Platform, on which its international partners can potentially operate ecommerce businesses.

Ocado Technology, the in-house development arm of online grocer Ocado, a Top100 retailer in IRUK Top500 research, says this is the first time that the unlicensed 4G spectrum has been used for warehouse automation. Each of the robots – more than a thousand – that move around the warehouse receive connections ten times a second, enabling operators to send instructions and to know where each robot is.

"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," said Adam Green, wireless team leader at Ocado. "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."

So far development work has taken three years and it is set to continue. The protocol could potentially be used for other Internet of Things applications, from vehicle-to-vehicle connectivity for smart cars, through to air traffic control systems or large scale industrial systems. Ocado Technology, which developed the system in partnership with Cambridge Consultants, is now working on new practical ways to use the technology.

Recent developments from Ocado Technology have also included the use of artificial intelligence to enable its customer service to organise incoming shopper emails.

More details about the use of 4G wireless protocols and robots in warehouse automation are available in Adam Green's blog on the subject.

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