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June 7, 2024

Attack of the Very Helpful Robots

NTT Group recently conducted a robot delivery demonstration at Shinagawa Season Terrace, in Tokyo, using new technologies to improve the efficiency and safety of multi-robot operations.

With a declining birth rate and an aging population, Japan and many other countries with similar demographic profiles around the world have an increasing need to use robots for various tasks, including delivery, security, and transportation. However, until now deploying robots efficiently and safely has posed some difficult-to-solve problems. These include preventing collisions when multiple robots operate simultaneously, and ensuring continuous operation without interruptions due to communication loss. The demonstration, held from February 5 to March 15, was a test of how to overcome these issues.

Group companies NTT Com, NTT Laboratories and NTT Urban Solutions used their respective strengths to integrate data sources to optimize robot control, develop the robot control technology itself, manage radio wave quality and provide reliable communication for the robots, and take care of the demonstration environment and coordinate with stores and tenants.

During the demonstration, office occupants could order items from the building's convenience store via an app. The robots then picked up and delivered the items as a way to demonstrate the efficiency and accuracy of the new technology.

The results were excellent: a 30% reduction in delivery time and a 20% reduction in arrival time errors compared to previous, less advanced methods.

Robot optimal control technology allowed multiple robots to choose the shortest routes while avoiding collisions. That led to better delivery efficiency. Meanwhile, creating detailed maps of radio quality allowed robots to avoid areas with weak signals and ensure uninterrupted operation. By linking these technologies, the robots were able to adjust their speed and stop before communication quality deteriorated, improving safety. Meanwhile, centralized management of different robot platforms provided real-time visualization of the robots' locations and statuses, allowing for efficient monitoring and quick detection of any abnormalities.

One question you might perhaps be asking is: isn't there anything similar in the market? What's so special about NTT's solution? It's true that a number of companies are working on using robots, in their own, unique ways. NTT's strength lies in not just optimizing the robot technology, but being able to use local district data to optimize for surrounding conditions. It's also able to predict and give arrival times in advance, which makes for smoother, frictionless operations for both stores and customers.

Until now, delivery robot tech has involved setting fixed routes and sticking to them rigidly. NTT's solution offers much greater flexibility by evaluating all possible route combinations for the robots and choosing the best one.

The demonstration showed the potential for integrating multiple advanced technologies to improve urban living. As NTT refines its technologies even further, the Group's vision of a harmonious society where humans and robots coexist will get closer to becoming a reality. Robots could soon be a common sight in our daily lives, performing a number of different tasks more efficiently and safely than before. Here's a few ideas about what we can look forward to in the near future:

Medication Delivery: Robots delivering medications within hospitals or directly to patients at home in a timely and accurate way—crucial for patient care and reducing the workload on healthcare staff.

Inventory Management and Automated Delivery: Robots managing inventory in warehouses by picking, packing, and transporting goods efficiently, then handling internal transport of packages in logistics centers, speeding up processing times and reducing labor costs.

Surveillance and Emergency Response: Patrolling public spaces to monitor security threats and providing real-time alerts to security personnel. In disaster scenarios, robots will be able to deliver emergency supplies or medical aid to affected areas, particularly where human access is restricted or dangerous.

NTT Group's robot delivery demonstration at Shinagawa Season Terrace showed the advancements they have made in multi-robot operation. Not only addressing current challenges in robot deployment, but also setting the stage for more integrated and efficient urban automation solutions in the future.

NTT—Innovating the Future

For further information, please see this link:

If you have any questions on the content of this article, please contact:
NTT Service Innovation Laboratory Group
Public Relations

Picture: Daniel O'Connor

Daniel O'Connor joined the NTT Group in 1999 when he began work as the Public Relations Manager of NTT Europe. While in London, he liaised with the local press, created the company's intranet site, wrote technical copy for industry magazines and managed exhibition stands from initial design to finished displays.

Later seconded to the headquarters of NTT Communications in Tokyo, he contributed to the company's first-ever winning of global telecoms awards and the digitalisation of internal company information exchange.

Since 2015 Daniel has created content for the Group's Global Leadership Institute, the One NTT Network and is currently working with NTT R&D teams to grow public understanding of the cutting-edge research undertaken by the NTT Group.