Tuesday, 12 January 2016 23:02

Robotics: a $100 billion opportunity?

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A variety of independent technological advances in batteries, power electronics, motors, sensors, processors, AI and other areas are leading towards a coming robotics surge and a massive opportunity.

Research firm IDTechEx has released brand new research claiming a $100 billion robotics opportunity, according to the firm’s Director, Dr Jon Harrop.

The research company notes that ‘the first industrial robot, Unimate, went into operation at a General Motors plant in 1961.’

Over the next few decades the use of industrial robot arms in the automotive industry matured.

More recently, however, the use of industrial robot arms in the cleanroom environments of the semiconductor and electronics industries has also matured.

Indeed, the market for such traditional industrial robots is now worth around $11bn and continues to grow slowly, with the technology ‘largely unchanged with modern industrial robot arms generally employing minimal sensors and no real intelligence.’

However, a revolution is coming, with IDTechEx stating this is detailed in its new research, dubbed “Robotics 2016-2026”, on sale to relevant parties at relevant prices, ‘which explores the future of robotics, applications, technologies and markets.’

The company says that ‘a variety of independent technological advances in batteries, power electronics, motors, sensors, processors, artificial intelligence and other fields are now creating an environment where robotics can finally surge ahead in many different ways, solving a wide variety of problems that traditional industrial robots could not possibly have solved.’

The single biggest trend will be mobile robotics.

Over the next decade the statically-mounted robots of today will become a minority as next generation robots travel across the ground, in the air and even across oceans and in space. Autonomous unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) will transfer goods not only within warehouses but down highways alongside conventional passenger vehicles and around mines and quarries with only minimal human intervention as well as harvesting crops and mowing our lawns.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will bring internet access to millions of people in remote locations, bring emergency medical attention to those in need and monitor and dust our crops. Autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) will be used to mine the ocean floors for precious minerals and coast guards around the world will employ autonomous robotic lifeboats for search and rescue.

Although mobile robots will be the single biggest trend, static robots will still continue to evolve. Surgical robots have already made inroads in some specific laparoscopic procedures but many companies are bringing more surgical robots to market for different kinds of operations. The worldwide push for STEM education has robotics as a core topic.

What were expensive high-end machines a few decades ago will be modularised into interoperable parts (joints, end effectors and so on) and commoditised as they are mass produced cheaply in East Asia. This will make robotics affordable for everyone, facilitating the teaching of robotics in schools and the development of next-generation robots by hobbyists.

More below, please read on!



IDTechEx says that ‘societal megatrends will play into robotics. The ageing population will benefit not only from surgical robots, lab robots for medicine and robotically-manufactured replacement bionic parts but also service robots designed to help the elderly at home. Everyone will benefit from personal robots that vacuum the house, mow the lawn, clean the pool and automate other mundane tasks such as cleaning the BBQ grill.’

Many robots will serve multiple functions. Internet-enabled robotic vacuum cleaners for the home are already being empowered with security responsibilities as they are able to photograph unusual changes in the home, such as an intruder, and send the images to the home owner.



Fig 1. Total robotics market forecast. Source: IDTechEx Research report 'Robotics 2016-2026.' 

All of these sectors in robotics will grow to overshadow traditional industrial robot arms. Over the next 10 years we expect the worldwide market for robots to reach over $120bn. Some of these sectors will grow much more quickly than others and some will grow only at specific times. More information is in IDTechEx’s Research report “Robotics 2016-2026”. 

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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