Interview: Fast-moving robotics and automation market prompts updates to forecasts

apple homepod

The new Apple HomePod, the home automation device which mostly acts like a speaker and plays music

The global market for robotics and automation systems is growing so fast that it’s causing seasoned industry analysts to revise their forecasts. 

For example, the Boston Consulting Group released a report into the robotics which it has now updated with new numbers.

The causes of the reviews include the relatively new interest in personal robotics technology for the home, and the burgeoning market in collaborative robots for industry.

Another key development is the launch of the Apple HomePod, which, along with Amazon Alexa and Google Home, looks set to automate a huge number of homes to levels never seen before.

Gaining-Robotics-Advantage_2

 

Among the updates to BCG report, Gaining Robotics Advantage, are the following facts and figures:

  • BCG projection of value of robotics market for 2025 raised from $67 billion (2014 estimate) to $87 billion
  • Sharp rise in consumer demand, projection raised 156 per cent over earlier estimate
  • Falling prices and advancing capabilities led to private investment in robotics tripling in 2014-15
  • The consumer sector has accounted for 40 per cent of new robotics companies since 2012, and 2016 saw dramatic shift towards consumer-focused appliances for robotics
  • Areas with highly repetitive or dangerous tasks, or jobs that require flexibility, speed or precision are a natural fit – for example, da Vinci Surgical System or in mining
  • “Cobots” will work alongside humans collaboratively to help with difficult or tedious tasks, improving productivity and job satisfaction
  • Current skills shortage needs to be addressed, companies will need to train and retain employees to keep up
  • US only spends 0.03 per cent of its GDP on labour training; Denmark spends the most at 0.52 per cent
  • Countries such as Korea and Japan have included robotics in their strategic planning

In an interview with RoboticsAndAutomationNews.com, Vladimir Lukic, partner and managing director, BCG, provided some background to the report.

We started by asking Lukic what is meant by “consumer robots”, the market growth of which is what BCG says will account for a lot of the overall size of the sector.

Vladimir Lukic, managing director of BCG

Vladimir Lukic, partner and managing director, BCG

Lukic says: “Consumer robots includes home devices like Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and so on. But also autonomous vehicles, home vacuum cleaners, autonomous lawn mowers, drones for personal use, and similar technologies.

“With dramatically falling prices and simpler interfaces to control and manage these autonomous devices, both investments in the space as well as consumer interest are skyrocketing.”

A lot of RoboticsAndAutomationNews.com readers are in the investment business, looking for opportunities in the market.

Lukic says his observations suggest that investors are taking long-term, strategic positions in what is a fast-moving robotics and automation market.

He says: “These are longer term bets on underlying trends and tectonic shifts taking place. Bets are being placed by large established players – for example, in the automotive field – to maintain their positions, as well as venture backed start-ups trying to disrupt established industries.

“The biggest trends are around consumer home applications as well as autonomous devices in and surrounding the homes, in both the hardware and software side.”

Another large group of our readers are interested in collaborative robots for industrial applications – especially in the auto and electronics industries. Many believe the cobot market will be massive within a few years, and Lukic broadly agrees.

Lukic says: “This is the next frontier. The fixed automation – as we see in the car industry – has been around for a couple of decades.

“The collaborative robots are now opening ability to work next to the workers on the manufacturing shop floor which opens up a whole new array of robotic applications and use cases.”

Collaborative robots are small and nimble enough – and affordable enough – to appeal to small and medium sized businesses in a variety of sectors, some of which may be unexpected. Right now, online shopping is driving some of the growth.

Lukic says cobots are “absolutely” driving other markets. “Tons of new applications in an array of industries, but especially in intra-logistics and e-commerce fulfilment space. Just look at this startup in item picking solutions targeting retailers, produced by RightHand Robotics.”

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