Robotics can become more common through shared interfaces and technologies available to all. One such solution would be a platform suitable for all kinds of loading and transport operations.
Cities have plenty of tasks that could be carried out with technologies. Robots and automation would save time, as well as people from having to do repetitive and dangerous work.
Making new technologies really become more common requires digital and technological standardisation practices and standards that could be utilised in different solutions. That way, not everyone would have to develop everything from the ground up, enabling operators to save money and time.
Repeating interfaces would make it possible for machines to work together. Robots and other technologies could interact with each other, forming something that could be called an ecosystem.
The local logistics start-up company CONTAI developed an ecosystem called AnyX that is suitable for transport operations and the City’s maintenance work as part of the AutoMod project. CONTAI conceptualised and tested a loading solution – in this case an interface – that is capable of combining different transport equipment for a variety of robotics work and transport applications.
During the project, the technology was tested for collecting and transporting recycling bins by means of a robot.
Interface like a USB connector
The idea behind the recycling bin transporter was that it would gather the bins in one place, where a collection vehicle could empty them. This technology would help people in their work, save time and reduce adverse noise and emissions in the living environment. The same collection and loading application could be used for other purposes as well. Preliminary plans have been made for using the application for operations such as last-kilometre deliveries.
“Whatever is transported over the last kilometre, we could deliver it: food, packages, recycling bins, or perhaps a portable toilet. With AutoMod, we realised that the transporter could also be carrying a mobile service,” comments CONTAI founder Seppo Narinen.
CONTAI’s solution is a sort of a technological replacement for a transport or cargo pallet that facilitates combining vehicles and loads freely. Physically, the solution is located on a mobile transporter.
“We have been looking for the lowest common denominator that has to be shared in transport operations. Everything redundant has been trimmed off,” Narinen explains.
He compares the technology to the USB connector, which was at first no more than one technology among many others but eventually ended up replacing numerous different device and manufacturer-specific connectors.
“We could be the USB of local logistics.”
A technology that will continue to work a decade later
For CONTAI, the combination of a robot and loading technology tried in the AutoMod project presented a useful opportunity to test how compatible their technology is with future solutions, such as autonomous robots or automation.
“Our aim is to be as flexible as possible and available to as many parties as possible. We must be ready to apply our technology to any purpose, possibly even a funeral procession.”
If established, CONTAI’s technology would be the Linux of transport operations, around which other operators could build solutions suitable for their own tasks based on the interface created by CONTAI.
“This would make it possible for even small operators to join in.”
CONTAI was selected in both of the AutoMod project’s innovation competitions to implement their idea. After the first competition, they created a modular circular economy concept, while after the second competition, they created prototypes for a recycled waste module and an autonomous delivery robot, which were presented in Espoo in the spring of 2023 at a circular economy event for all residents at the Kera halls.