Imagine a robotic arm being used autonomously to perform physiotherapy for someone with a disability.
What if the device could be programmed to perform repetitive tasks like stretching an arm or leg a number of times regularly on a given day – and all of this could be controlled through the Cloud?
“It’s a distinct possibility,” says Sridhar Deenadayalan, the head of Azure Practice at rhipe, a world leader in cloud-based solutions.
Mr Deenadayalan says the same arm could also be attached to a mobile robot and perform a number of different tasks for other applications while connected to the Cloud.
Rhipe was one of 75 leading IT and software companies taking part in the Microsoft Ignite tech conference in Sydney last week.
With 350 world experts and more than 100 “deep-dive sessions” and workshops the Microsoft Ignite – The Tour was a tech lover’s paradise.
At the two-day event visitors gained practical insights and best practises on the future of cloud development, data, IT and business intelligence.
Changing manufacturing as we know it
Visitors were given a taste of the future with technology that is set to change the face of manufacturing as we know it.
One demonstration that stood out from the crowd was a collaboration between rhipe and electronics giant Omron.
On display was a Techman TM collaborative robot supplied and programmed by Omron and connected to the cloud by rhipe using the Microsoft Azure platform.
“For the first time we were able to show how these traditional robots, which have never talked to the cloud, can be used more efficiently,” said Mr Deenadayalan.
“By marrying this equipment to the cloud as part of the IoT it opens up a big window of opportunity for a broad range of industries.”
As part of the demonstration, the robotic arm was sent a request through the cloud to carry out a set of tasks. This included selecting either chocolate or health bars and handing them to a group of people of different ages and genders.
“This was a good demonstration of how an industrial grade robotic arm can seamlessly integrate with the Azure IOT platform,” said Mr Deenadayalan.
“This (technology) could be potentially used on a manufacturing sorting line to look for specific items where it can sort through and select certain goods.”
But the real benefit, he says, is using a cloud-based solution to monitor the entire manufacturing process.
Data can be pulled from a device (such as a robotic arm) in real-time, sent to a special dashboard and analysed.
“Statistical and telemetry information could be used to determine how a machine is performing in real-time,” says Mr Deenadayalan.
“This means companies can assess the efficiency of the equipment on the floor and perform preventative maintenance if needed.”
And such technology is not limited to manufacturing.
Other applications could include farming and agriculture where robots could be used to choose best quality fruit and to also package it.
It could also be used in healthcare – including physiotherapy.
“A robotic arm now comes with a variety of different grippers for a broad range of tasks,” says Mr Deenadayalan.
“So, applications such as physiotherapy could potentially work.”
Performing delicate and precise manoeuvres
It would also be ideal in the pharmaceutical industry working with materials that are hazardous or contagious. The robotic arm has the added advantage of being able to perform delicate and precise manoeuvres and measurements.
Also, it could be deployed when dealing with material such as DNA samples where it is imperative to avoid contamination from human touch or presence.
The mining industry could also be a big beneficiary.
“In mining it is not affordable in some remote areas for human to visit regularly to gather telemetry information,” says Mr Deenadayalan.
“It now means IoT devices can send telemetry information across the cloud more efficiently.
“The bottom line is when industry specific robots are integrated with the cloud it opens up a very big window of opportunity for the entire industry.”
Developing more Cloud-based industry solutions
The Microsoft Ignite demonstration was the result of a 5-month collaboration between rhipe and Omron.
Mr Deenadayalan says rhipe will continue its collaboration with Omron to develop further Cloud-based industry solutions beyond the robotic arm.
“Omron has a suite of IoT products so we are keen to find new cloud solutions for our customers and partners and eventually to commercialise those products.”
Robots that avoid people and obstacles
Last year, Omron, a world leader in industrial automation, announced a strategic alliance with Techman Robot, a Taiwanese manufacturer of integrated-vision collaborative robots (cobots).
Under the agreement, Omron now markets and sells Techman’s TM series of collaborative robots through its worldwide distribution network under a co-branded logo.
As well as the TM series, Omron also offers “mobile-compatible” models which can be integrated with its LD family of mobile robots.
These robots, which move autonomously by avoiding people and obstacles, are already being used to automate material-handling operations around the world.
With a cobot mounted on top, they will not only be able to transport materials from one location to another, but will also be able to perform tasks such as the pick-and-place of parts onto trays, in each location.
About OMRON Corporation
Omron Corporation is a global leader in the field of automation based on its core technology of “Sensing & Control + Think.” Established in 1933, Omron has about 36,000 employees worldwide, working to provide products and services in 117 countries. The company’s business fields cover a broad spectrum, ranging from industrial automation and electronic components to automotive electronics, social infrastructure systems, healthcare, and environmental solutions.
Founded in 2003 as NewLease, rhipe has grown to become the leading cloud software licensing expert in the Asia-Pacific region, with a presence in 18 countries in the region. A unique player in the field of software distribution, rhipe is focused on enabling and accelerating adoption of the Cloud. The company specialises in supporting the service provider community in their adoption of the Cloud. Rhipe is a global partner for Microsoft, offering Cloud programs including Microsoft Dynamics and other Microsoft volume license programs (LSP/LAR). In 2018, rhipe was named Microsoft Australian Partner of the Year.