8 Robotics Trends for 2017 and Beyond



The robotics technology market is booming. In fact, according to the 2016 Worldwide Semiannual Commercial Robotics Spending Guide from the International Data Corporation, the market is predicted to more than double in value by 2020 — from $91.5 billion in 2016 to more than $188 billion in 2020. Total global spend on robotics includes investments in robotic systems, hardware, software, related services, after-market hardware, the commercial purchase of drones and after-market drone hardware.


So what’s going to be driving all that growth, and what trends are going to be seen in the robotics market over the next few years?


Innova Research, a consulting firm focusing on the emerging technologies market, forecasts the following trends:


1. Acceleration of Growth of the Collaborative Robot Market

Collaborative robots, which physically interact with humans in a shared workspace, are an increasingly attractive option to manufacturers. As the market grows, high levels of adoption are expected to come from the furniture and equipment sectors. Growth is also forecast for metal and machining, food and drink, and the automotive industry. All of this is expected to increase the collaborative robot market value to $3.3 billion by 2022.


2. Introduction of the First Laws and Regulations for Robotics

Every new industrial and technological advance eventually comes with new rules for creating and using it. Innova predicts that the first laws this market will see will be focused on protecting human jobs — even though some research firms, like Forrester, now think that robotics will transform instead of replace human work.


The International Bar Association in its recent report Artificial Intelligence and Robotics and Their Impact on the Workplace suggests that change is happening so fast that legislation will be needed in the near future. For instance, legislation will need to clarify who will be liable when things go wrong on robot-only jobs.


3. Increased Integration of Robots With AI and IoT Technologies

A boom sector all of its own, artificial intelligence (AI) is forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 62.9 percent between 2016 and 2022, according to data from Markets and Markets. The Internet of Things (IoT) market is huge too — a ReportsnReports study issued in March 2017 predicts that this market will grow in value by another $169.6 billion between now and 2022.


ABB, a global robotics pioneer, is already taking AI and IoT one step further; in 2016 the company shared its vision of an “Internet of Things, Services and People (IoTSP)” designed to increase productivity, flexibility and efficiency along the manufacturing value chain. Rather than implementing one IoT-connected machine, IoTSP will deliver a fully-connected supply chain enabled by IoT and integrated with AI.


4. Rapid Improvement of Human-Machine Interface Technologies

Human-Machine Interface (HMI) technologies, which are the software and apps we rely on to interact with the different technologies we use in all areas of our lives, are going to be key to the success of collaborative robots and the greater integration with AI and IoT technologies. A recent advancement in HMI has come from Jaguar Land Rover, which has used its knowledge from creating automotive vehicles with advanced technology to create a steering wheel for its America’s Cup boat that will control not only direction but also the hydrofoils and how deep the vessel is sitting in the water. This is the way all HMI technologies are expected to develop — by bringing together knowledge from across different industries to merge all required actions together into one easy-to-use application.


5. Long-Term Coexistence of Cloud Robots With Other Robots

One of the newest sub-sectors of the robotics market is cloud robots, which can connect to data stored in the cloud rather than needing to have all of the required data-storage space built into its hardware. While the cloud robot market was valued at just $1.38 billion in 2015, by 2024 it’s expected to reach $21.94 billion. But data safety issues and response times are expected to keep the non-cloud robot firmly in place for the foreseeable future.


6. Adoption of Robots in Many New Sectors

As robots start to become more mainstream, they will begin to be seen more often in many new sectors, including health, retail and education. Innova says this will initially be driven by the B2B market, because consumers aren’t ready to adopt robots for use in the home until they look and behave a lot more like humans.

7. Wide Adoption of Robot as a Service

A Robots as a Service (RaaS) model will allow companies to avoid large capital investments in robotics. Instead, they can rent robots and get automatic upgrades when a next version comes along. This represents yet another step in the shift towards a robot service economy.

8. Reduction in Costs of Robots Due to Less Expensive Components

Economies of scale in manufacturing the new components that are driving technological advances will reduce the cost of robots, which means that more can be produced. In a virtuous cost-saving circle, producing more robots will deliver economies of scale that will further reduce costs. The upshot: in a decade or two, it will be difficult to remember a time when robots weren’t ubiquitous.  
Whether all of these predictions will be proven true within the next few years or not, one thing is for sure – robots are here now, they are improving fast, and the future is going to look very different because of them.

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