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Test and Measurement: NSF funds new testbed for autonomous robots connected via mmWave

Florida testbed will support ‘networked, cooperating robots’ connected via mmWave

Florida Atlantic University has received a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a first-of-its-kind testbed that will connect robots using millimeter-wave wireless links.

The new testbed will be at the Center for Connected Autonomy and Artificial Intelligence at Florida Atlantic University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science and Institute for Sensing and Embedded Network Systems Engineering.

Rather than using cameras or LiDAR, or a central controller that operates via Wi-Fi or 5G, this testbed will focus on robot-to-robot mmWave links in an “autonomous” network that will have “dual use in robot-to-robot communication and sensing,” according to a release (although the robots will also have LiDAR capabilities). FAU said that a team of five robots — two of which will have robotic arms — will be outfitted with individual, programmable mmWave modems and will be able to “create their own super-high-speed autonomous network”; the robots will then be trained to execute tasks as a team. In addition to the communications piece, FAU researchers will also be developing algorithms that enable networked robotic team operations.

“Just like humans, autonomous robots need to communicate with one another to learn together and to accomplish a team task or mission such as search and rescue,” said Dimitris Pados, Ph.D., who is the principal investigator, a professor in FAU’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and also director of the Center for Connected Autonomy and Artificial Intelligence, which opened officially in March and has already attracted more than $9 million in federal funding. “Our five testbed robots will be able to communicate at ultra-high speeds of gigabits per second by forming and directing ‘beams’ toward each other that also will enable them to see through objects as needed. They will see, so to speak, what the other robots are sensing in real-time, resulting in five times the eyes thanks to the nearly instantaneous exchange of high volumes of data.”

FAU said that its platform will be available for remote access by other U.S. researchers.

In other test news:

Keysight Technologies is working with aerospace and defense company Lockheed Martin on a testbed called 5G.MIL that the latter company will use for exploring defense applications of 5G. According to a release, the collaboration between the two companies “aims to adapt commercial 5G technology to meet tactical communications needs in terrestrial and non-terrestrial networks operated by the Department of Defense.”

“Lockheed Martin is leveraging expertise in the commercial sector to scale, adapt and integrate 5G technology rapidly and affordably across mission-critical operations across land, sea, air, space and cyber domains,” said Dan Rice, VP for 5G.MIL Programs at Lockheed Martin. “Keysight’s end-to-end 5G test platforms, widely used commercially, provide an opportunity to develop customized solutions that meet the stringent requirements of the defense industry.” 

Also this week, Keysight said that Chinese test services company Ti Group will use Keysight’s 5G test platforms for 5G device conformance testing. Ti Group, headquartered in Shanghai, has a network of more than 30 test labs for inspection, testing and certification services across China that focus on everything from electronics and telecom to automotive.

-The Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research (PAWR)’s third large-scale testbed officially opened for general availability this week. The AERPAW testbed in North Carolina focuses on wireless communications related to unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones. Read the full story here.

Rohde & Schwarz made a number of announcements this week, including a collaboration with MediaTek on one of the first production test solutions for Wi-Fi 6E devices, which integrates the R&S CMP180 radio communication test platform into MediaTek’s production testing tools. Rohde also joined the Car Connectivity Consortium to support its focus on vehicle-to-smartphone communications, with an eye particularly on enabling Ultra Wideband (UWB) testing for vehicle use cases. R&S noted that the CCC recently released its Digital Key Release 3.0 specification, which enables compatible mobile devices to be used for passive keyless access and start the vehicle’s engine via UWB in combination with Bluetooth Low Energy.

R&S also recently announced an extension to its R&S ATS1800C compact antenna test range for 5G milllimeter range over-the-air testing; the new product enables two side chambers to be added to the test range in order to create what R&S calls the “only single-system solution that enables full 3GPP-specified conformance testing of a 5G NR mmWave device for radio resource management, including multiple angles of arrival.”

UL has launched two new certification programs focused on data center operating conditions. The Data Center Integrator Qualification (DCIQ) focuses on training that aims to limit data center hazards and performance loss due to improper equipment integration, as well as training on relevant local and national fire and electrical codes and regulations. Secondly, UL also debuted an Immersion Cooling Equipment certification program focused on the practice of submerging racks and/or full servers in liquid that conducts heat but not electricity.

In launching the program, UL cited the surging growth in the data center industry as a result of increased remote work, cloud computing and business digitalization, as well as the emergence of 5G and increased use of IoT.

RootMetrics has put out its November Scorecard, assessing the position of the three national carriers’ 5G performance in 60 cities (RootMetrics will eventually test 125 metro markets over the course of the second half of 2021). T-Mobile US surged to the lead in the second half in 5G speeds and now has the top spot in both speed and availability. Full story here.


Kelly Hill
Kelly reports on network test and measurement, as well as the use of big data and analytics. She first covered the wireless industry for RCR Wireless News in 2005, focusing on carriers and mobile virtual network operators, then took a few years’ hiatus and returned to RCR Wireless News to write about heterogeneous networks and network infrastructure. Kelly is an Ohio native with a masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, where she focused on science writing and multimedia. She has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, The Oregonian and The Canton Repository. Follow her on Twitter: @khillrcr

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