While CES is an event that mostly focuses on the consumer market, over time there have been an increasing number of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics announcements during the event.
One of the most interesting this year is NVIDIA’s Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR) platform, which could significantly address problems companies are having with logistics, particularly when it comes to product movement in factories and warehouses.
NVIDIA is also advancing autonomous vehicles, including the trucking industry, which is undergoing a driver shortage. That problem will only get worse unless we can either replace drivers with robots or make the job itself more attractive. NVIDIA’s efforts have the potential to do both.
Let’s explore how AI may be on the critical path to addressing the massive logistics and related product-shortage issues we are experiencing today.
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The logistics problem
In the early months of the pandemic, factories were shutting down and were unable to get parts. This problem moved to distribution, exacerbated initially by the shortage of long-haul truck drivers, which was in turn exacerbated by the weather, shortages in dock workers, and then shortages in both warehouse space and warehouse workers.
As the pandemic continued, it created spot issues in all three environments resulting from employees testing positive and having to remove themselves from factories, warehouses, and other areas where they otherwise would be in proximity to uninfected workers.
AI-enhanced robotics, which are also used in autonomous heavy industrial vehicles, like semis, forklifts, and farm equipment, are not negatively impacted by either worker shortages or pandemic effects. Thus, they are an ideal solution where labor availability is at risk.
NVIDIA’s AMR and autonomous vehicle solution
NVIDIA’s AMR and autonomous vehicle solutions are unique in that they are tied into the company’s metaverse tool set called Omniverse, which provides for extensive virtual simulation and testing.
The AMR solution is expanding and is deployed at companies like BMW in manufacturing, using NVIDIA’s Omniverse and Isaac Sim for simulation, training, and to keep the resulting digital twins synchronized for better real-time management and to allow for future advancement of the related efforts.
Using a number of GPU-accelerated AI technologies and SDKs, which include DeepMap, REopt, and Metropolis under NVIDIA’s Fleet Command, you end up with a comprehensive robotic response to the labor shortage component of this logistics problem.
The NVIDIA Drive platform for autonomous cars and trucks then picks up with solutions to deal with long-haul driver shortages. This is a callable platform designed to operate 24/7, with no need for sleep, breaks, or sick days. Working with companies like PACCAR, NVIDIA continues to lead with one of the most comprehensive vehicle manufacturer-independent solutions for long-range transport.
When linking the technologies together, you could end up with a highly automated manufacturing and distribution solution that can stand up to events like the current pandemic and provide a robust solution to the current supply chain shortage issues.
NVIDIA’s autonomous technology goes beyond trucks to cars, where it was initially focused, farm equipment, personal aircraft, and ships. Eventually, I expect, it will go into space.
See more: Why NVIDIA Has Become a Leader in the AI Market
Tech to Aid the Supply Chain
While CES is typically about consumer technology, often, as was the case this year, enterprise and government announcements sneak in.
What stood out to me this year was NVIDIA’s AMR effort which, coupled with its autonomous vehicle capabilities, provides for the possibility of an end-to-end automation solution for the supply chain. From robots that create, move, and store the product to autonomous vehicles that transport the raw materials and finished goods between locations and eventually the end user, we are looking at a potential automation solution that could make supply chain shortages caused by illness a thing of the past.
Given how much stress these shortages are putting on us individually and collectively, that must be a good thing. But like with any technology solution, particularly with the massive economy of scale advantages that autonomous robots, delivery drones, and self-driving vehicles collectively provide, the company that times the roll out of this technology well should be in far better shape for the uncertain world we currently live in.
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