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Summary form only given, as follows. The Editor-in-Chief presents a Guest Editorial by Prof. Raff D'Andrea of ETH Zurich. Dr. D'Andrea played a key role in designing and developing the innovative technology behind Kiva Systems, which was acquired by Amazon.com in May 2012 for US$775M. Kiva Systems invented a radical new approach to warehouse automation and logistics based on large numbers of small mobile platforms that move between stations for order fulfillment, where human workers perform recognition, grasping, loading, and unloading of items from the platforms. The systems required many advances in design and engineering to achieve the necessary Quality (with a capital Q: reliability, efficiency, precision) for deployment in major warehouses (if you haven't seen them, there are cool videos showing scores of bright orange platforms in action on the Internet). In the Guest Editorial, Raff summarizes key insights, such as using feedback from low-cost sensing and computation, combined with data analytics and machine learning, to achieve high accuracy and precision from inexpensive mechanical components. Raff also proposes several exciting challenges for future research, such as new algorithms for high-level planning and scheduling that can optimize the number of mobile platforms, and a call for a reliable indoor equivalent to GPS. He argues for new system design tools that apply innovations in formal verification and model uncertainty and information flow. Raff closes with an exciting and characteristically bold Grand Challenge for Robotics and Automation. Kiva Systems is an inspiring success story in our field and Raff is the ideal person to describe it.
Automation Science and Engineering, IEEE Transactions on (Volume:9 , Issue: 4 )
Date of Publication: Oct. 2012