Swarm Monitoring
Test and Monitor | Posted April 03, 2015

Previously I wrote about crowd-sourced monitoring and how in order to monitor crowd-sourced applications you should monitor in the crowd itself. This week I want to talk about monitoring robots, specifically, groups of robots or swarms (which are two different things). Drones, and by that I mean airborne robots, are a type of robot that is seeing a huge uptick in interest.  Lots of companies are talking about using drones from Amazon with drone package delivery to environmental data collection, and of course government surveillance. This means that there will be groups of them performing tasks. NASA has announced that it is working on air traffic control for drones, this means that they will need to be monitored--are they following the flight plan?  Are they at the correct altitude?  What about power consumption?  And is the equipment they are carrying working?  Cameras, sensors, etc..

Robot Swarms pose yet another monitoring challenge, robot swarms are groups of individual robots that self-organize and work together on a goal, like a hive. Picture a swarm of robots weeding acres of crops: they need to monitor themselves as a unit, is the coverage correct, is a robot malfunctioning, should other units change course to cover an area?  Then the humans, controlling the overall activities of the swarm, need to monitor the same things at the level of the swarm rather than the individuals.

My theory is that like crowd sourcing, the robots need to contain the monitors, or agents, that will collect the necessary data and feed it back on a continual basis to the operations center, wherever that is.  The best information will have to come from the field in the exact environment the robot is operating in.   So monitoring in the group or swarm seems to me to be the internet of things analog to monitoring in crowd.

Related Articles:

NASA explains why you won’t get a drone delivery anytime soon

NASA's air traffic control system for drones is progressing nicely

Andrew Bate’s Swarmfarm Robotics finds a more efficient way to spray weeds

Commission weighs the use of drones to police fishing quotas