Published on: July 19, 2023
SafetyDetectives spoke with Dr. Yehuda Elmaliah, co-founder of Cogniteam, about Nimbus, the cloud-based robotics ecosystem, cybersecurity, the impact of AI with autonomous robots, and more.
Dr. Yehuda Elmaliah, could you share with us your journey and the driving force behind the establishment of Cogniteam?
Upon completing my PhD in computer science, with a focus on robotics, we developed an algorithm that allowed teams of robots to collaborate and work together seamlessly. The experience of programming something that could physically interact and affect the world in meaningful ways was truly special. While creating code and crafting impressive graphical user interfaces is fascinating, witnessing the code come to life and animate robots across different parts of the world truly captivated me. It became evident that this was my lifelong passion. Reflecting on some of the world’s significant challenges, I co-founded Cogniteam alongside Dr. Nachum Kaminka, to address these challenges.
Initially, Cogniteam functioned as a company that undertook projects for various organizations, providing turnkey solutions. Our focus was on assisting them with specific algorithms related to localization, mapping, and navigation, using a diverse range of robots in different environments. As time passed, we began incorporating open-source code and developing our own solutions tailored to meet the specific requirements of our clients.
Around a decade later, we recognized a crucial missing layer in robot development. Despite working on diverse projects, we observed a recurring pattern of needs within the company. This led us to pivot our approach and create a product that would address this gap. Consequently, Cogniteam transformed from a project-based company to a product-based one.
Tell us about Nimbus and its capabilities.
At the end of 2019, after securing funding, we successfully developed Nimbus, our flagship product. Nimbus is a cloud-based robotics ecosystem designed to enable companies developing or operating robots to effectively manage their robots or entire robot fleets. Some key features of Nimbus include:
- Streamlined Code Development: Companies can easily develop code for their robots within the Nimbus environment.
- Seamless Updates and Upgrades: It facilitates deploying updates and upgrades to robots already in the field, ensuring they remain up-to-date and efficient.
- Comprehensive Monitoring and Management: Users can monitor and control their robots effortlessly through a SaaS solution.
- Real-time Robot Data: The Nimbus website provides real-time data and insights from all connected robots.
- Collaborative Sharing: Nimbus allows users to share robots with others, fostering collaboration akin to sharing a Google doc.
- Remote Access and User Management: Companies can access their robots remotely and track which users are currently engaged with a specific robot.
What advantages does Nimbus offer to robotics companies?
Nimbus offers several advantages to robotics companies, enabling them to focus on their core intellectual property (IP). Typically, when a robotics company aims to solve a problem, they are required to design the entire robot, develop its autonomy, establish cloud connectivity, and create monitoring tools. While crucial, these tasks are not directly related to their core IP and often divert resources from their unique strengths.
By leveraging Nimbus, companies can significantly reduce the time from funding to deploying a robot for problem-solving, shortening the process from six years to just one and a half years. This rapid market entry is made possible by utilizing the platform’s capabilities, which enable continuous software delivery, efficient robot monitoring, and data-driven insights.
For example, consider a company focused on designing a robot for wall painting. Their IP lies in areas such as wall recognition and precise paint application. Localization and navigation, which are well-established in indoor environments, can be handled using existing open-source solutions with minimal adaptations. Nimbus addresses these solved layers, allowing companies to concentrate on refining their unique aspects.
By offloading non-core tasks to Nimbus, companies can focus their efforts on their distinct strengths, resulting in a streamlined development process and faster market entry. The platform’s robust features for monitoring, management, and analytics empower companies to prioritize their IP and deliver innovative solutions.
How does cybersecurity ensure the safety and security of autonomous robots?
Cybersecurity plays a critical role in ensuring the safety and security of autonomous robots, encompassing two primary aspects.
Firstly, treating robots as computers and implementing cybersecurity measures to protect them is essential. The same effective cybersecurity solutions used for computers can be applied to robots. This includes secure software development practices, encryption, access controls, and regular software updates to address vulnerabilities.
Secondly, safeguarding robot sensors from potential manipulation is crucial. Attackers may attempt to deceive a robot’s sensors to generate false information, leading to inaccurate perceptions of the environment. For instance, attackers might present an image instead of a real object to deceive a visual sensor or manipulate LIDAR sensors with strategically placed reflective surfaces to distort distance measurements. Combating these attacks requires a multi-sensor approach, integrating sensors from different families, such as LIDAR with cameras, ultrasonic sensors, or radar. By combining data from diverse sensor types, the robot gains a more comprehensive understanding of its surroundings and can detect inconsistencies.
Additionally, cybersecurity considerations extend to robot connectivity. While some robots operate in local networks without external connections, many autonomous robots require cloud or other network connectivity for data sharing and remote monitoring. Securing communication channels, implementing secure hardware solutions, and adhering to industry standards like ISO 27001 are crucial for such cases.
Cogniteam takes cybersecurity seriously, maintaining an in-house security team that conducts regular inspections of the platform’s security code and performs vulnerability assessments. Collaborations with external cybersecurity experts who attempt to hack Nimbus further ensure the identification and resolution of potential vulnerabilities. The utmost security is prioritized, as any breach could have significant consequences.
How does the development of AI impact the advancement of autonomous robots?
The development of AI has a profound impact on various projects we are involved in. AI enables human-robot interaction, allowing individuals to engage in conversations with robots and teach them various tasks. Additionally, AI plays a crucial role in helping robots comprehend visual information, such as object recognition, through deep neural networks. The emergence of large language models enables seamless communication with robots, where information can be conveyed and comprehended by the robot.
One noteworthy project we are currently working on is human-robot interaction, part of an Israeli consortium. The goal is to create scenarios where people can interact with robots they encounter on the street, such as Last Mile delivery robots. The challenge lies in developing natural conversations between people and robots, facilitating mutual understanding without requiring programming skills. To achieve this, we leverage the latest AI tools and techniques.
Overall, AI advancements significantly enhance the capabilities of autonomous robots, enabling them to interact with humans in more natural ways and make sense of their environment more effectively. As AI continues to evolve, we anticipate even greater strides in the field of robotics and human-robot interaction.