At the Dell Technologies Summit, Dell employees introduced attendees to Hermes, the autonomous driving robot cart. During the Wireless Innovation Lab tour, Hermes rode around the room, carrying a Dell laptop, testing for wireless connectivity.

“You all have probably noticed a robot running around–that’s Hermes. His primary focus is rate versus range for Wi-FI,” Justin Harbour, senior engineer at Dell, said during the tour. “We are testing him right now on 802.11ac, but his usual test is 802.11 ax, which is your 6th generation of Wi-Fi standards.”

SEE: Artificial intelligence: A business leader’s guide (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Wi-Fi 5, or 802.11ac, has been the most widely used iteration of the IEEE 802.11 protocol since its release in 2013. This version of Wi-Fi connectivity provided 1000Mb/s or 500 Mb/s on the 5.0 GHz spectrum, according to Michael Kassner in TechRepublic’s Cheat sheet: What you need to know about 802.11ac.

Wi-Fi 6, or 802.11ax, is the most recent and revolutionary Wi-Fi standard yet, set to replace Wi-Fi 5 by the end of 2019, reported Brandon Vigliarolo in TechRepublic’s Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax): A cheat sheet. Wi-Fi 6 is reportedly 30% faster than Wi-Fi 5, and Hermes is in the process of testing out both.

Hermes in action.
Image: Dell

The functionality of Hermes is extremely helpful, considering the introduction of the transition from from ax to ac, as he can draw insights into both, said Liam Quinn, senior vice president and senior fellow at Dell Technologies.

Hermes’s main purpose is to travel around a designated room or space, carrying a Dell device, to test the strength of a device’s connectivity in different areas. “As you go away from your access point at home or at work, your signal gets weaker and weaker,” Harbour said. “We want to quantify that, test it, and make sure [the connection] is consistent or as good as it can get.”

“We can also do congested environment testing, which means, say, lunch time rolls around and everybody starts getting on YouTube and Netflix. What kind of effect does that have on the connection?” Harbour asked. “What he’s trying to do is repetitively simulate one user versus other users or versus different access points.”

Hermes was first developed two years ago and is used nearly every day. He is fully autonomous, using LiDAR to detect his surroundings and navigate the space. When he is low on battery, he is even able to go back to his dock, recharge himself, and continue the task, Harbour said.

“The great thing about Hermes is he doesn’t mind working all day,” Harbour said. “He’s a diligent worker.”

The robot conducts competitive analysis, or the connectivity of competing laptops, as well as internal analysis of Dell devices. While Wi-Fi is the primary connectivity Hermes tests, he has also tested LTE and 5G connectivity, which both ended up being homogenous, drawing consistently strong signal strength, Barbour said.

While artificial intelligence (AI) is used across platforms for testing at Dell—for example, an AI machine named Batman that tests battery management—Hermes is one of the prime examples of AI testing integration. “It’s the application of AI in a more intelligent way,” Quinn said.

For more, check out Dell Tech Summit: Power of compute in the next data decade on TechRepublic.

Dell uses AI to test functionality of new laptops. Hermes can be seen on the laptop’s screen.
Image: Dell