Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Qualcomm integrates 5G and AI in robotics platform

Steve Rogerson
June 23, 2020

Qualcomm has integrated 5G and artificial intelligence (AI) in a hardware and software development platform to help design robotics and drones.
The Robotics RB5 platform brings together the company’s expertise in 5G and AI to empower developers and manufacturers to create high-compute, low-power robots and drones for the consumer, enterprise, military, industrial and professional service sectors. The RB5 development kit helps developers with customisation and flexibility.
There are more than 20 early adopters evaluating the platform and more than 30 ecosystem players developing hardware and software for robotics applications. These are 96 Boards, Acontis, Adlink, AirMap, AirServe, Airtonomy, Always AI, Augmented Pixels, Autocore, Autoware Foundation, Canonical, DeepEdge AI, DreamVu, Dronecode, Fractal AI, GlobalEdge, Innominds Software, InOrbit, Intel RealSense, Lantronix, Linaro, LiteOn, Kudan, Modal AI, Nod, Open Robotics, Panasonic, Path Partners, Pilot AI, Shoreline IoT, Slamcore, TDK, Thundercomm and Tier IV.
The platform uses the Qualcomm QRB5165 processor customised for robotics applications. This provides a heterogeneous computing architecture coupled with the fifth-generation Qualcomm AI Engine delivering 15Tops of AI performance for running complex AI and deep learning workloads.
The processor also has machine-learning inferencing at the edge under restricted power budgets using the Qualcomm Hexagon Tensor accelerator, an image signal processor with support for seven concurrent cameras, and a dedicated computer vision engine for video analytics. With support for 4G and 5G connectivity speeds via a companion module, the platform helps pave the way for 5G in robotics and intelligent systems.
With the platform and processor, the company enables various designs including off-the-shelf systems-on-module and flexible chip-on-board designs. There are multiple options, including commercial and industrial-grade temperature ranges and an option for extended lifecycle until 2029.
“By applying its deep-rooted mobile systems expertise to the robotics industry, Qualcomm is helping to enable the creation of more powerful, secure and intelligent robots than ever before,” said Dev Singh, senior director at Qualcomm Technologies. “With the Robotics RB5 platform, Qualcomm will help accelerate growth in a wide array of robotics segments such as autonomous mobile robots, delivery, inspection, inventory, industrial, collaborative robots and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), enabling Industry 4.0 robotics use cases, and laying the foundation for the UAV traffic management space.”
Qualcomm has entered a collaboration with TDK to enhance the capabilities of the robotics platform. TDK has added its sensor technologies for robotics applications as part of the platform and has been instrumental in providing sensors and motor control hardware.
“We are proud that we are an integral partner of the Qualcomm Robotics RB5 platform launch and strategy,” said Scott Deutsch, general manager and vice president at InvenSense, a TDK group company. “TDK’s advanced, integrated and comprehensive robotic sensor offerings are designed specifically for the next generation low-power, high performance sensing robots and are critical to the needs of today’s OEM development teams.”
The collaboration with TDK has been integral in enabling the development kit with TDK’s six-axis ICM-42688-P IMU, accompanied by an ICP-10111 barometric pressure and a T5818 digital bottom port microphone. TDK also enables the development kit with its ultrasonic time-of-flight (ToF) CH101 and CH201, in addition to its embedded motor control and IMU with built-in redundancy.
Additional technologies by TDK include Hall effect and temperature sensors and validated and verified software algorithms dedicated to robotic applications.
The kit is said to be customisable and easy to use. Developers have flexible software capabilities, with the platform offering support for Linux, Ubuntu and ROS 2.0, as well as pre-integrated drivers for various cameras, sensors and 5G connectivity. It also provides support for Open CL, Open GLES and Open CV.
Additionally, the kit includes support for the Intel RealSense D435i depth camera and Panasonic ToF camera to provide depth-sensing capabilities. 
Finally, the kit uses 96 Boards’ consumer edition specification, which helps offer versatility for creating proofs-of-concept and rapid prototyping.
“This is the first 96 Boards compliant platform offering 5G, AI, heterogeneous computing, computer vision engine, advanced ISP multi-camera concurrency for a large range of applications,” said Yang Zhang, director of 96 Boards. “With our partners, we believe this product will revolutionise the robotic and drone market as we know today.”
Roger Barga, general manager for robotics and automation services at Amazon Web Services (AWS), added: “Today’s Qualcomm Robotics RB5 platform builds on our continued work with Qualcomm to help developers easily build intelligent robotics functions using AWS cloud services. Our collaboration with Qualcomm is designed to give robotics developers a complete cloud to edge solution, accelerating development, providing intelligence out of the box, and easing robotic lifecycle management.”