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By Rich Nass, Executive Vice President, Embedded Computing Design, Open Systems Media

I’ve seen the future, and it’s all about robots.

Industry 4.0 went a long way to introduce us to how robots could work safely and security in an industrial setting. The next step, Industry 5.0, is where we (humans), work alongside those robots. Lots of technologies have to come together to make this a reality, but it will happen, sooner rather than later.

Those “other” technologies include, but aren’t limited to, 5G, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, and security. Combining these technologies results in our latest buzzword, cobot, which is a collaborative robot. Cobots are designed to share workspaces with humans, in an industrial setting. The result is smoother than ever automation, higher productivity, and so on. When perfected, this technology can be application to just about any size business in just about any application. That’s indoors or out, wet or dry, hot or cold, and smooth or rough terrain.

The use of cobots is enabled by AI. These robots must be able to make decisions on the fly, in real time to avoid damaging themselves, the humans they interact with, or the machinery or end product within the facility. Some of the biggest companies on the planet are already making use of cobots, including Ford and Amazon. Both companies have realized improved efficiencies and lower costs. In addition, some of the more dangerous tasks, as well as those that are quite mundane, are being accomplished by the cobots.

Another reason for the use of cobots is the potentially shrinking labor pools, both in the U.S. and abroad. And obviously, the cobots can cost reduced over time.

When you add 5G into the mix, the geography in which the cobots can be used and/or controlled becomes significantly larger. 5G allows the cobots to be deployed in any remote location (as long as it’s a place where 5G has been deployed) and controlled from any location where 5G has been deployed.

Did mention security? That becomes a HUGE factor here, and when you throw 5G into the mix, it grows in importance. While 5G has been vetted by some of the brightest minds on the planet, you never really know until it’s out in the field. Things always seem to work perfect in the lab. But when you get them out in real environments, there’s always that one thing you didn’t think of. And if that one thing leaves a vulnerable node, you’re susceptible to a breach.

One addendum: I’m writing this while the world is in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Think how much better off we might be if our production plants could operate and our store shelves could continue to be replenished without any people having to stand within six feet of each other. We would still be in a big mess, but it could offer some level of relief.