“A robot in a dead zone could have serious consequences”
Robots should revolutionize logistics. However, the permanent monitoring of the systems is a big problem. The start-up Meshmerize has found a simple solution for this. The technology behind it is more than 40 years old.
Dhe robotics is set to revolutionize logistics in the coming years. The idea: Robots not only transport goods, but also sort and pack them – completely autonomously. But it’s not that easy.
“Even with a giant like Amazon, robots have only taken on individual transports so far,” says Simon Wunderlich, Chief Operating Officer of the Dresden start-up Meshmerize.
One of the biggest problems is the permanent monitoring of the systems. “A robot in a dead zone could have serious consequences,” said Wunderlich.
Meshmerize, which was founded last year, has now found a simple and inexpensive solution for the control: Mesh networks. The technology is more than 40 years old.
So far, however, it has mainly been used to connect devices wirelessly. Experts speak of single-path-based routing protocols.
“We unleash the devices from these imaginary cables,” says company founder Sreekrishna Pandi. According to him, the entrepreneur from India and his team have “developed the world’s first dynamic network that is set up by mobile robots themselves”.
Robots should “talk” to each other
The easiest way to explain the system is with the home WiFi system, because it is based on the same technology: In a single-family home, the WiFi signal is usually sent out by a router on the ground floor. If you are in the basement or in the attic, the transmission quality can drop noticeably.
In contrast to the WLAN router, there are numerous nodes in a mesh network. Among other things, the computer picks up the signal from the router, but at the same time sends it to the cell phone, television or smartwatch, which “talk” to each other again without any loss of performance.
Applied to a logistics hall, this means, according to Wunderlich: “With our system, the robots can communicate with each other.” Expensive 5G mobile radio systems for controlling the systems could be supplemented or even replaced in this way.
Meshmerize tested the system on drones. “Not every drone needs a permanent connection, for example to a cell phone,” explains Wunderlich.
Since almost all processors nowadays also have a WLAN chip integrated, mesh networks are comparatively easy to install. “Our partners are the WLAN module manufacturers,” explains Wunderlich, the Meshmerize software is sold to them as a licensed product.
The producers are mainly based in countries like Taiwan and China, but also in Germany. “In the future, we also want to start talks directly with the robot manufacturers,” said Wunderlich.
But that should only be the beginning: “We are starting to network mobile industrial robots and drones because they are the ones who can already benefit from our technology immediately,” says founder Pandi. The long-term goal, however, is to “redefine how moving things in the world connect with one another.”
One million from Atlantic Labs
The Berlin VC Atlantic Labs has recently become one of the investors. According to the Dresdner company, the venture capitalist has invested around one million euros. As a VC-supported start-up, according to Pandi, the focus is not only on the technology, but also on the scaling of the business model.
According to a report by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), the market value of sold or leased logistics robots alone rose by 110 percent to 1.9 billion US dollars in 2020.
Annual growth of at least 40 percent is expected in the future. “In the next 18 months we want to identify the most valuable turnkey solutions that we can offer the industries and get in touch with their respective innovation leaders,” announced Pandi.
The entrepreneur came to Dresden five years ago to do his master’s degree in nanoelectronics. “The TU Dresden is one of the top universities in this area,” says Pandi. It was not his goal from the start to build a start-up.
The large pool of specialists in the field of mesh networks and the Exist funding program then led to the establishment of Meshmerize. The start-up currently employs eight people, and the number should at least double in the next twelve months.