Introducing VDA 5050 - A potential standard for the mobile robot world.
When was the last time you came across or were affected by a standard? Perhaps this morning, while pouring milk into your coffee. The sheer number of laws and regulations at national and European levels dedicated to the quality assurance of milk and dairy products is really quite dizzying. Or perhaps yesterday while driving your car and enjoying fully regulated traffic signs (think: size, font, color). You are probably reading this very article on an appropriately regulated smartphone or laptop screen! Put simply: all of us are surrounded by standards and norms, everywhere and at all times.
This is very much true for the mobile robotics universe and its interoperability, too: the VDA 5050 – a standardized communication interface that has been developed jointly by the German Association of the Automotive Industry ("VDA") and the German Engineering Federation ("VDMA") – was designed as an entirely centralized feature with an explicit master control or central fleet manager in mind which controls and supervises a fleet of various shop floor assets. When robots communicate in the same language not only with each other but also with a centralized orchestration platform, the sky is the limit.
Contrary to intuition, standards have always driven innovation and growth: Electric power networks flourished after power supply was standardized, fuel standardization was essential for mass production of cars, and container standards revolutionized shipping logistics.
Why is this the case? Without standards, vendors offer a multitude of proprietary and mutually incompatible products. In such a scenario, vendors have a high margin due to lock-in effects, leading to high prices and a comparatively low market volume. When proprietary solutions are superseded by a standard, network effects set in: Customers are willing to invest, and vendors can reduce their production costs, leading to a win-win situation and a much larger overall market volume.
"Standards and norms not only promote innovation and continuous development. They also enable interoperability in intralogistics."
- Dr. Wolfgang Hackenberg | CEO & Co-Founder SYNAOS