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NIST, ROBOTICS INDUSTRY SEEK A MORE "OPEN" RELATIONSHIP.

While the term "open architecture" may make most of us think of a blueprint for a retractable-roof baseball sta-dium, it actually refers to an information technology system (software, hardware or a combination of both) that can be connected easily to devices and programs made by other manufacturers. Open architectures use off-the-shelf components and conform to approved standards.

For the robotics industry, the interoperability permitted by open architecture controls is considered critical to reducing the price of integrating different robotics systems. Lack of these controls is a major contributor to the $2 billion to $4 billion that U.S. industry spends annually on integrating robots into manufacturing systems.

To begin addressing the issue of open architecture controls for robotics, NIST and the Robotics Industries Association organized a workshop in February 2000. More than 50 participants from the three key sectors of the robotics market--system integrators, vendors and end users--attended and formed a working group. Recommendations for short-term actions were made, including providing a roadmap for the group, looking at current open architecture control standards (such as those for machine tools) from the perspective of robotics, establishing initial guidelines for data integration in factory networks, and creating a World Wide Web site with a glossary, references and related links (www.isd.mel.nist.gov/projects/openarch/).

In June 2000, the group met for the second time and better refined its definition of open architecture controls for robotics with two new concepts. The first concept split robot controllers into a proprietary part and an open (typically PC-based) part. The second identified three classes of external interfaces to the open part of a robot controller which would be proper areas for standardization factory data integration, peripheral integration and graphical display. Group members agreed to focus initially on factory data integration, proposing "first-wave standards" for such areas as media and protocols, information presentation, time synchronization and network management.

For the robotics open architecture control group's third meeting--in November 2000, preceding the 2000 Robotics Industry Forum in Orlando, Fla.--organizers sought field experiences with the proposed first-wave standards (to develop case studies) and proposals for using remote collaboration tools to refine the guidelines. Reports were submitted to the electronic mail list, openarch@nist.gov.
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Title Annotation:National Institute of Standards and Technology
Publication:Journal of Research of the National Institute of Standards and Technology
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2000
Words:368
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