Autonomous Robotics at The Kinetic Edge Is Here

Hangar Technology
Mar 27, 2018 · 8 min read

The Path to Industrial Economic Transformation

The physical world moves rapidly and unpredictably. People walk freely into streets, gusts of wind shake branches from trees, soccer balls are chased across streets. The human brain can process and react to this reality. As data collection vehicles like drones and autonomous cars get smarter and gain adoption, they are going to require extremely fast processing to coexist in this reality. The time it takes to send data to the cloud, process it, and receive it back again doesn’t work in the context of the real-world.

Autonomous cars are the perfect example of this. Imagine an autonomous vehicle approaching a stop sign. By the time an onboard computer takes a photo, sends that photo to the cloud, the photo is processed and a stop sign is recognized, then that information is then sent back to the car to informing it to stop — that car would have run through the stop sign and possibly collided with other vehicles or objects. To solve for this, experimental autonomous vehicles possess more than a half dozen super computers onboard in an attempt to measure and make decisions within the context of the real-world environment. This approach makes these vehicles cost prohibitive and still blind to many perspectives and scenarios. For mainstream adoption to occur, there must be a smarter and safer way forward.

It’s not just autonomous cars, the challenge and opportunity of collecting and applying real-world data is everywhere. It’s the difference between a collapsed bridge, and the early detection of cracks after an unexpected flood. It’s the difference between a hazardous waste disaster, and early detection plus corrective actions based on real-time temperature readings. And it’s the difference between a lost crop yield, and adjusting a field’s drainage based on on accurate, up to the minute soil analysis.

To address the challenge of gathering, processing and extracting insights from real-world data in near real-time, a few things are necessary — we need consistent, real-world precision information, and it needs to be closer to the edge, or right at the very edge of the interactions. Right when we need it most, Hangar Technologies and Vapor IO have partnered to bring this potential to fruition, establishing an edge computing infrastructure and unleashing the transformative impact autonomous robotics will have on the world’s largest industries today.

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The Value In 4D Visual InSights & The Kinetic Edge

With the rate of adoption of drones, self-driving vehicles and the Internet of all Things (IoT), every industry is beginning to recognize the unprecedented amount of data that connected devices will generate. Not simply an influx of log files or 2D views photos of the world, but a rapid, exponential increase in geo-spatial data over time (4D Visual InSights). It’s estimated that 50 billion devices will be interconnected by 2020. New, sophisticated sensors that measure everything from light to gravity will multiply, generating more than two exabytes of geo-spatial, 4D data each day.

Autonomous robotics, or any connected device, will need to act, interact and react with volumes of information in less than 10 milliseconds to be useful. A long back-haul to the centralized cloud infrastructure is not a viable solution.

To make use of an unprecedented volume, velocity and variety of real-world data collected at scale, the Kinetic Edge is an inevitable necessity. This will enable an unprecedented velocity of new data and a resulting wealth of new actionable insights. For many industries, this velocity of Visual InSights will have a transformative economic impact.

The generic term ‘Edge Computing’ is interpreted in various ways depending on your marketing perspective. Broadly, edge computing is the technique of enhancing cloud computing systems by performing data processing near the source of the data, at the ‘edge’ of the network. By performing processing and insight generation near the data source itself, edge computing helps to transform enormous data sets, generated by machines and sensors, into actionable data insights. Vapor and Hangar take a very strong position that while edge computing is vanilla, the Kinetic Edge is supercharged and just what every Smart City across the globe needs to be prepared for the opportunities to come.

Today, There’s Only One Robot at the Edge

With so many incredible applications of real-world data and edge computing, it’s easy to get lost in the noise, and lose grasp of reality. Autonomous Uber rides, Amazon Prime delivery drones and Walmart aisle-roaming drones are years away at best. Today however, there is really only one practical application of autonomous robotics that is feasible and safe at scale — small flying robots — drones.

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Existing in a space free of cars, bicycles and the billions of other objects gravity restricts to the ground, drones operate in a largely uninhabited space free of people and objects. From just above our heads to 400 feet above ground-level, drones safely provide a new and valuable perspective of the world.

Drones are essentially highly-useful mobile sensor platforms, combining near infinite mobility with the data collection capabilities of the Internet of Things. The inherent value isn’t in spinning propellers or the mechanisms maintaining their flight. The true value of drones is in the unique perspective they provide, and the insights that emerge from the data they capture. When autonomous technologies are ubiquitously applied to drones, they are uniquely positioned to be the first robotic to bring the potential of edge computing to the massive amounts of 4D data collected at scale.

Read “Autonomous Robotics Are Here, Just Not the Ones You Think

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Autonomous Robotics at the Kinetic Edge

As tens of thousands of autonomous robotics go to work, they will depend on low-latency services from a national edge infrastructure. Hangar Technologies and Vapor IO have partnered to bring 4D data, autonomous robotics and edge computing to reality, with the Vapor IO Kinetic Edge.

Vapor IO’s Kinetic Edge deconstructs the traditional “large building” data center into a cluster of tightly-integrated hyper-local micro data centers connected by high-speed fiber and embedded in the urban fabrics. The distributed nature of the Kinetic Edge makes it possible to span an entire city, provide low-latency hyper-scale compute at the edge of the wireless and wireline networks. Important characteristics include:

  • Hyper-Local Microdata Centers
  • High Speed Fiber Connections
  • Partnerships for Micro-Location, Micro-Climate, Airspace Integration, and High-Speed Edge Ingest

Hangar’s Robotics-as-a-System will utilize Vapor IO’s Kinetic Edge sites for safe navigation, connectivity, situational and airspace awareness, drone storage, drone recharging, high-speed data ingest and low latency processing — producing immediate 4D Visual Insights for Enterprises across a variety industries. Hangar has run hundreds of thousands of autonomous drone missions, using sophisticated sensors to collect real-world data about an environment, and enabling real-time data decisions. Important characteristics include:

  • Autonomous Robotics at The Edge Locations
  • Data Processing and Automation, And High-Speed Ingest (Raas)
  • Support for Safety of Autonomous Mission Execution

Drones & the Enormous Economic Impact Today

The implications of autonomous drones at the edge are profound. Autonomous robots will enable municipalities and commercial businesses perform highly-specialized tasks, such as building or infrastructure inspections, at a lower cost while achieving better outcomes. This will accelerate situational awareness, and provides a new agility to respond to events and make automated decisions in real-time.

Imagine It. On a construction site, a daily drone capture identifies that pipes have been laid three feet from the location indicated on the digital plan. A worker is assigned to repair the pipe in time to avoid costly rework. On a tower, after a high-wind storm blows through, an autonomous drone recognizes a structural change and alerts a team of the specific asset that requires work. A technician is dispatched with the proper equipment to make a rapid repair. On a bridge after a harsh winter, a drone performs a routine thermal scan and detects a crack in the interior structure of a column. In response, the bridge is automatically flagged as structurally deficient and a team is immediately sent to assess the severity of the issue.

The data derived from autonomous drones and edge computing will cut costs, boost margins, expedite timelines, open new channels of communication, and improve efficiency for industries that are increasingly under pressure to make improvements. Gartner estimates that $3.7 Billion was generated from approximately 175k commercial drones in 2017. In the US alone, AUVSI estimates that drones have the potential to create $82 billion in positive economic impacts and generate more than 100,000 jobs by 2025.

According PwC’s study on the commercial applications of drone technology, the emerging global market for business services using drones is valued at over $127 billion. Drones at the edge will enable economic transformation across many industries, including:

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America’s Infrastructure Report Card gave our highways, bridges and dams a D+. Currently, there is $4 trillion in infrastructure that need to be repaired, maintained or replaced in next 7 years. Drones will enable real-time awareness when monitoring investments, assist with maintenance and provide asset inventories.

Drones at the edge will help augment the skilled labor deficit within agriculture, and help farmers increase yields by monitoring their fields and performing soil and drainage analysis.

To meet rising consumer demands and logistical innovations, autonomous drones will rapidly deliver parcels, including medical equipment, to isolated or dangerous locations.

Drones will augment and supplement many otherwise manual surveillances activities help businesses monitor large or hard-to-reach areas, leverage various sensors to identify dangers and provide proactive threat response.

The new perspective and agility provided by drones will also benefit media and entertainment by providing rich aerial content and crucial depth and dexterity for advertisers.

To fight rising fraud and damage from natural disasters, the 4D data captured by drones will dramatically enhance risk monitoring, risk assessment and claims management.

Drones will lower costs and provide new solutions for tower maintenance and monitoring, signal optimization and issue identification.

Drone will provide safety for workers, as well as facilitate better planning, measurement, exploration and discovery and real-time reporting.

A First Step

In the future, machine learning will catalyze the spread of the kinetic edge and autonomous robotics, including self-driving cars and delivery vehicles. With billions of devices sensing the physical world, only a machine learning approach can decipher pattern nuances and extract relevance from the 4D data itself.

However, the path to that future is 4D Visual Insights, autonomous robotics and the Kinetic Edge — all working together in synchronization. Autonomous robotics will enable the capture of incredible volumes of the physical world’s information, driving the necessity of edge computing, which will in turn propel autonomous drones of new types and sensors to collect and do more with 4D data. The infrastructure established by Hangar and Vapor IO’s Kinetic edge offers immediate benefits to many industries looking for actionable real-world insights, while also putting into motion the promising future of edge computing and autonomous robotics.


News from the Hangar team as we continue to enable…

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