Letter from the Editor

Robots Are Coming!
Robots are coming, robots are coming! Of course, that’s no news. Robots in one form or another are everywhere around us. Their presence is growing rapidly in our everyday life and they are making our lives more productive. They have come a long way from automated assembly lines in the factories and cleaning homes to performing complicated lifesaving surgeries in hospitals and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in warfare. Continued evolution of the robots, and their applications in new domains, is in part due to the integration of sensors that enable the robots to understand physical quantities such as temperature, pressure, humidity and altitude, as well as the ability to process sight and sound (vision/image/video and audio processing). Furthermore, integration of networking and communication technologies, combined with advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms continue to put robotics on an accelerated path of innovations that will impact our daily lives tremendously.


So, as intelligent and networked robots become ubiquitous around us, it is imperative that there are standards set for design, deployment, maintenance, safety as well as interoperability among robots in a larger ecosystem built around such robots. A team of standards professionals have collected a detailed status of ISO standards projects in the article “The flourishing landscape of robot standardization”. In the six working groups, these standards cover the topics of safety-related standards across different use domains:
  • Vocabulary and characteristics
  • Personal care robot safety
  • Industrial safety
  • Service robots
  • Medical robot safety
  • Modularity for service robots
Taking the topic one step further, Prof. Christian Wietfeld explains the need for standards in rescue robots at different layers of the entire rescue system. His article “Networked Rescue Robotics: Standards pave the way from successful prototypes to sustainable deployments” walks you through these layers and explains the need for standardizing various data formats. Imagine the kind of chaos that may exist if the rescue robots from different manufacturers, or even same manufacturer but different generation/version, could not communicate effectively with each other. This reminds me of the “1904 Baltimore Fire” chaos when firehoses were found to be incompatible with Baltimore’s fire hydrants, rendering several hundred fire trucks from other cities useless while the city burned. One would hope that the rescue robots will provide a solution to ease the chaotic situation caused by whatever the nature of emergency (fire, earthquake, flood, etc.). That’s why we need standards!


Dr. Koji Kamei takes us deeper on the tour of standards as used in the cloud for robotics. His article “Standardization Activities for Robotic Services” is a perfect complement to the Rescue Robotics.


Still interested in more information about Robotics and Standards? Checkout the comprehensive collection of information put together by IEEE’s own Robert Craig as the newest member of the Standards Education team. Welcome aboard, Robert!


As academia and industry continue to advance the field of robotics and attempt to solve complex problems, the solutions will have to share knowledge. This will inherently imply the need to share data formats, access mechanisms, networking and communication. Oh yes, and don’t forget the need to carefully deploy ethical practices in these intelligent systems. Refer to IEEE’s 7000 series of standards. This is the emerging field in standardization so important to students, researchers, industry practitioners, and policy makers (among others).