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Ocado Develops 4G Protocol For Robots In Automated Warehouses

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Online grocer develops 4G protocol to talk with robots operating its newly automated warehouses

Online grocer Ocado has revealed more details about its development of a 4G protocol to communicate with thousands of robots powering its new automated warehouses.

The firm said its “highly automated” warehouses will be offered as part of a managed service called the Ocado Smart Platform, to allow international partners to build online retail businesses.

Automated Warehouses

The development of the protocol to communicate with robots comes after Ocado earlier this year installed the world’s most advanced and dense mobile network at its warehouse, helping to deliver two million items to customers each day.

But now according to Ocado, its protocol marks the first deployment anywhere in the world to use the unlicensed 4G spectrum for warehouse automation.

It claims the protocol “guarantees a connection ten times per second to each of the 1,000+ robots roaming around the warehouse – all working within a 150 meter radius”.

Ocado 3Ocado has always prided itself as a technology inventor, and while it admitted that building robots can be a relatively straightforward task, it pointed out that communicating with a each of the robots in a swarm of them ten times per second is much more difficult, hence the need for its protocol.

“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,” said Adam Green, wireless team leader at Ocado.

“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,” he said.

“Moreover, the wireless protocol can be repurposed for other IoT applications that mandate reduced communications delay between many devices: vehicle-to-vehicle connectivity for smart cars, air traffic control systems or large scale industrial systems,” added Green.

Last month Ocado revealed it has to use Google’s Cloud Platform (GCP) as well as Amazon Web Services (AWS) because potential retail customers of its own platform are ‘fearful’ of Amazon handling their data.

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