T-Mobile brings 5G to Sarcos industrial robot for remote viewing, operation

T-Mobile is teaming up with Sarcos Robotics to integrate 5G capabilities into the company’s forth-coming industrial robot, to power remote viewing capabilities and teleoperation.

The robotic system, Guardian XT, is a remote-controlled system that resembles an upper-body exoskeleton. Expected to be commercially available by the end of 2022, it’s designed with the purpose of performing tasks in dangerous or hazardous conditions, providing safety for human operators who can stay out of harm’s way. Sarcos describes the mobile robot as highly dexterous, able to perform intricate tasks that need a human-like skill level.

For example, the robot can lift and manipulate heavy items (up to 200 pounds), or use power tools for grinding, cutting and welding at very tall heights. The robot can also deploy sensors for structural testing and inspections, or repairs and maintenance on indoor, overhead communication panels.  

It’s platform-agnostic and can attach to different mobile base structures, such as wheeled or tracked vehicles, including various types of lifts and trucks.  

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Where T-Mobile and 5G come into play down the line is for teleoperation so tasks could be performed and controlled by a human operator from a distance, as well as response time so the robot is more tightly aligned with movements of the person operating the system. That’s phase two, and T-Mobile said it’s expected to include full T-Mobile 5G mobile network integration.

Sarcos is already working with T-Mobile and 5G for its initial focus on creating a remote viewing system that takes advantage of the operator’s bandwidth and low latency.

Scott Hopper, EVP of Corporate and Business Development at Sarcos, in a statement said they’ve “made great progress” in utilizing T-Mobile’s 5G network for the remote viewing management system.

“This is a significant first step and we’re eager to continue the development toward full 5G wireless connectivity that will unlock a variety of new capabilities, including remote teleoperation, as we prepare for commercial availability,” Hopper continued.

It’s meant to allow people who are on-site or remote (such as supervisors, expert observers, or workers) watch the robot perform tasks while controlled by the operator in the field.

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According to T-Mobile, the Guardian XT applies to a range of industries, including aerospace, automotive, aviation, construction, defense, industrial manufacturing, maritime, and oil and gas.

“The Sarcos Guardian XT robot requires a highly reliable, low latency 5G network that its human operators can count on,” said John Saw, EVP of Advanced & Emerging Technologies at T-Mobile, in a statement. “5G was designed from the ground up for industrial applications such as this and we cannot wait to further collaborate with Sarcos as they develop the next big thing in industrial robotics.”

Separately, many industrial verticals also have been targeted as good candidates (and explored or deployed) private 4G LTE and 5G wireless networks – an opportunity that carriers, equipment vendors and others are pursuing.

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T-Mobile’s been quieter on the private wireless 5G front, but Verizon has said it’s chasing a $7 billion to $8 billion private wireless addressable market expected by 2025. The carrier has a number of private 5G partnerships and launched an international private 5G offering using Nokia. AT&T has said it would offer private wireless for enterprise with Nokia and Ericsson using CBRS. As of the second quarter 2021, Nokia itself already counted 340 private wireless enterprise customers.