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Amazon server servicing robot
This simplified version of a patent-application diagram shows robots checking a set of computer server racks. (Amazon Illustration via USPTO)

Does something need checking out in your data center? Before you send out a technician, why not send out a robot?

That’s the upshot of a newly published Amazon patent for mobile robots that are designed to respond to the report of a glitch, check out the computer server that may be having an issue, hook into it if necessary and gather data for a fix.

The system, described in an application that was filed back in 2014, even calls for having the machine use its robotic manipulator to pull out a suspect part and install a replacement if need be.

There’s no sign that Amazon Web Services already has robotic IT workers on the job, servicing the hundreds of thousands of computer servers it has in data centers around the globe. Plenty of patents never get implemented, and Amazon didn’t immediately respond to GeekWire’s emailed inquiry about its intentions.

But AWS would be among the potential users for such a system, based on the market for the device that’s described by the inventors, Kevin Patrick O’Brien and Jignesh Gandhi.

“Organizations such as online retailers, network-based service providers, Internet service providers, search providers, financial institutions, universities, and other computing-intensive organizations often conduct computer operations from large-scale computing facilities,” they write in the application.

The inventors note that the data servers in such facilities “require inspection and periodic maintenance in order to meet customer expectations with respect to reliability.”

That’s where the robots come in.

Data server maintenance robots
This graphic goes into further detail about the maintenance robots and how they’d be connected to a central computer system via the cloud. (Amazon Illustration via USPTO)

Robo-technicians could be dispatched wirelessly by a central monitoring system when a particular server needs inspection or maintenance. When they get to the preordained location, the robots could get a visual read on the computer server’s indicator lights, tap into the computer’s connections, and use their manipulators to make adjustments or replace parts.

The idea isn’t totally new: O’Brien and Gandhi give a nod to researchers at IBM and Rutgers University who describe how they used robots to map the layout of a data center and take humidity and temperature readings to identify energy inefficiencies.

There’s even a patent that was issued way back in 2006 to inventors at Hewlett Packard for a robotic device that’s equipped with a manipulator as well as a camera and other sensors for checking and maintaining data centers.

But if Amazon ever does decide to have robots servicing its computer servers, at least it’ll have a patent to protect its technology.

Just one question: Has anyone won a patent for the robots who’ll service the robots servicing the servers?

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