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Safe, Efficient and Integrated Indoor Robotic Fleet for Logistic Applications in Healthcare and Commercial Spaces

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ENDORSE (Safe, Efficient and Integrated Indoor Robotic Fleet for Logistic Applications in Healthcare and Commercial Spaces)

Reporting period: 2018-10-01 to 2020-09-30

Commercial indoor spaces such as hospitals, hotels, offices offer great potential for commercial exploitation of logistic robotics. They offer also advantages for their deployment, since they are required by law to meet stringent building codes, and therefore the navigation space exhibits some structure. In addition, they offer reliable communication infrastructures, since this is required for normal business operation. Thus, commercial spaces are rightfully considered the next great field of logistic robotics deployment. Despite these advantages, today, only few solutions exist, and these solutions do not trigger widespread acceptance by the market. This is because existing systems require costly infrastructure installation (arrays of peripheral sensors, mapping, etc.); they do not easily integrate to corporate IT solutions and as a result, they do not fully automatize procedures and traceability; they are limited to a single type of service, i.e. transfer of goods. Through transfer of knowledge, multidisciplinary research and cross-fertilization between academia and industry, ENDORSE will address the aforementioned technical hurdles. Four innovation pillars will be pursued: (i) infrastructure-less multi-robot navigation, i.e. minimum (if any) installation of sensors and communications buses inside the building for the localization of robots, targets and docking stations; (ii) advanced HRI for resolving deadlocks and achieving efficient sharing of space resources in crowded spaces; (iii) deployment of the ENDORSE software as a cloud-based service facilitating its integration with corporate software solutions such as ERP, CRM, etc.; (iv) reconfigurable and modular hardware architectures so that diverse modules can be easily swapped. The latter will be demonstrated and validated by the integration of an e-diagnostic support module (equipped with non-invasive sensors/devices) and the Electronic Health Records (EHR) interfacing, which will serve as an e-diagnostic mobile station
During the first reporting period, the consortium partners finalized the definition of the user requirements, the use cases and the technical specifications of the ENDORSE solution. The consortium developed as well, both final and preliminary versions of the software and hardware sub-components of the overall ENDORSE solution, which were successfully demonstrated during the Mid-Term Meeting. Ethics requirements were also thoroughly addressed.
The main results achieved include: i) the integration of the infrastructure-less Anyplace Indoor Navigation Service into the Robot Operating System, as a key step towards infrastructure-less multi-robot navigation, ii) preliminary algorithms for human-aware navigation using machine learning approaches, a step towards enhanced HRI ; iii) the e-diagnostic module hardware and the robot base adaptation ; iv) the software to access the Electronic Health Record from the mobile e-diagnostic module ; and v) a first version of the fleet management system for robot task allocation. The latter software developments will facilitate the deployment of the ENDORSE software as a cloud-based service.
A questionnaire was elaborated to elicit the requirements of the stakeholders regarding a logistic robotics system for healthcare and commercial spaces. It served as a basis to better understand the opportunities and challenges of such robotics solutions from a nursing professionals’ perspective. The findings go beyond state of the art, and were documented as a paper published in an international journal. The first version of the fleet management system uses several scalable optimization algorithms for robot task allocation that includes features that go beyond the state of the art. The algorithms and their evaluation results were documented as paper accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed international journal. New algorithms enhancing the robustness and stability of indoor navigation in dynamic environments were elaborated and published in the proceedings of international scientific conferences.
Until the end of the end of the project, the consortium will finalize the development of the algorithms for infrastructure-less indoor localization, human-aware robot navigation, and deadlock resolution, as well as their software implementation. The overall ENDORSE both software and hardware solutions, including the cloud-based fleet management system and the Electronic Health Record, will be finalized and integrated. Finally, pilot sites will be set up for the experimental evaluation and validation of the ENDORSE solutions using a fleet of several robots.
The three types of ENDORSE robots
The ENDORSE mobile e-health module
The ENDORSE Electronic Health Record GUI