October 2005
Interview
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Lloyd SpencerEMAIL INTERVIEW -  Lloyd Spencer & Ken Sinclair

Lloyd Spencer, President and CEO CoroWare, Inc. and CoroWare Test Labs

Lloyd Spencer has more than 20 years of experience in the computer and networking industries in engineering, product marketing, business development, and sales management.  His expertise spans a spectrum of service provider industries and technologies, including distributed network computing and embedded systems hardware development.


CoroWare Test Labs

We want to accelerate the emergence of a standards-based robotics components market so developers can bring new robotics solutions to market faster using existing, proven, interoperable components.

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Sinclair:  What are the objectives of CoroWare Test Labs?

Spencer:  There are several. First we want to accelerate the delivery of interoperable autonomous / robotic solutions to commercial and military users. We also want to accelerate the emergence of a standards-based robotics components market so developers can bring new robotics solutions to market faster using existing, proven, interoperable components.

To do this, we're going to develop a test suite that will help vendors and their customers verify basic interoperability among robotic platforms, subsystems and control systems. This will help eliminate the variable results and duplicative cost when developers and integrators have to develop their own conformance and interoperability tests.

At the end of the day, we'll provide vendors, customers, certification bodies and other organizations with a means of verifying that their unmanned systems conform to the JAUS/SAE AS-4 specification.

Sinclair:  How much demand do you see for this kind of service?

Spencer:  In the formative years of networking, when competing "standards" made life tough for both customers and vendors, several companies stepped up to the plate and took responsibility for conformance testing and essentially gave the equivalent of the Good Housekeeping Seal to vendor offerings that complied with de facto standards. Today, robotics is sorely in need of an independent standards testing organization to take vendor offerings and put them through various tests that confirm compliance with the most important interoperability standards -- JAUS (Joint Architecture for Unmanned Systems) and SAE AS-4 (Society of Automotive Engineers) -- which are now essentially the same thing.

Today there are more than 20 programs in progress, each comprising multiple robotics vendors, that can benefit from our interoperability testing capabilities.

We're hoping to become to be one of the innovative thought leaders that can help drive the adoption of robotics interoperability standards. Our peers in the industry are solidly behind the effort and we expect the number of customers to grow rapidly as interoperability -- both in civilian and military applications -- becomes a pressing issue.

Sinclair:  What will the certification process cost individual vendors and/or developers?

Spencer:  We haven't set a firm price at this point, although we expect pricing to vary depending on the complexity of the platform and mobile robotic application and how closely it adheres to existing standards already. That is, if the robotic platform or application is fully compliant with JAUS/SAE AS-4 the cost of verification will be much more affordable. If, on the other hand, the application varies widely from those standards, the testing and verification process will obviously take somewhat longer and will be priced accordingly.

Sinclair:  Are there any differences between JAUS and SAE AS-4? If so, what are they?

Spencer:  JAUS transitioned in early 2005 to the SAE AS-4 standard. JAUS was developed by the military to ensure communications among robots and robot subsystems from different manufacturers. As the SAE AS-4 standard, JAUS will move forward as both a commercial and military standard.

Reliable Controls Sinclair:  Where do you see the bulk of your business coming from -- military or civilian?

Spencer:  We see it coming from both areas. The military has a pressing problem in that it's using robots from a variety of manufacturers and a high percentage of them won't talk with other robots -- even those performing much the same function. So there's high demand there.

On the civilian side, we're just beginning to see heavy growth in the industry as more and more robotics companies spring up, and as many existing companies form departments to research and develop robotic solutions. So, going forward, we expect a huge demand from private industry for our services.

Sinclair:  What's the relationship between CoroWare and CoroWare Test Labs?

Spencer:  CoroWare Test Labs is a subsidiary of CoroWare.

Sinclair:  How many employees at the new facility in Pittsburgh?

Spencer:  There will be four to start with; two are transferring from our Bellevue facility and two new employees will be drawn from the talent pool in Pittsburgh.

Sinclair:  How about funding?

Spencer:  We got a great boost through a grant from The Technology Collaborative (www.techcollaborative.org), which operates various programs and initiatives designed to accelerate digital and robotic innovation in Pennsylvania. We're pleased that they saw the need we're addressing and were willing help us with startup funding. CoroWare is also contributing funds, as well as handling all staffing and ancillary personnel needs.

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