The rise and rise of service robots

| Author / Editor: Ahlam Rais / Ahlam Rais

The International Federation of Robotics forecasts a strong increase in sales for professional and personal service robots during the period 2019 – 2022.
The International Federation of Robotics forecasts a strong increase in sales for professional and personal service robots during the period 2019 – 2022. (Source: Deposit Photos)

The global demand for service robots is on a significant rise. Global companies are now increasingly adopting logistic systems as well as inspection and maintenance robots in their processes to enhance efficiency, reduce costs, and improve safety measures.

Service robots are not new to the world. Time and again tech companies have introduced innovative and path breaking robots to simplify human lives. Be it the robot from Aeolus Robotics that is capable of cleaning and vacuuming the floors and placing items in their proper storage spaces; or the electrically powered Remotely Operated Vehicle, Daksh which has been designed and developed by the Indian state-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation to recover improvised explosive devices; service robots are transforming the very essence of our work and security culture.

Professional and domestic service robots

Going ahead, the International Federation of Robotics forecasts a strong increase in sales for professional and personal service robots during the period 2019 – 2022. Professional service robots include logistic systems, medical robots, field robots, and inspection and maintenance robots whereas personal service robots are used for carrying out domestic work.

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In its latest report, the robot association adds that the sales value of service robots for Professional use increased by 32 per cent to 9.2 billion dollars as compared to last year. It mentioned that logistic systems such as autonomous guided vehicles represent the largest fraction in the professional service robot market (41 % of all units sold) while inspection and maintenance robots held the second largest category (39 % of all units sold). Together, both the segments account for 80 per cent of the total market share.

Autonomous guided vehicles

Automated guided vehicles are portable in nature and move around with the assistance of radio waves, vision cameras, magnets, or lasers. These robots are ideally used in large factories or warehouses. A prominent example of this is Alibaba’s warehouse in China. Last year, the Chinese multinational e-commerce company employed 700 automated guided vehicles at its warehouse in Wuxi, China in the backdrop of a huge annual shopping festival.

With the help of these robots, Alibaba was able to make processes more efficient and also meet the firm’s goal of delivering items to anyone in China within 24 hours and internationally in 72 hours. The e-commerce giant is also known for using autonomous guided vehicles at many of its other warehouses in China.

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Inspection and maintenance robots

In today’s technologically advanced environment, robots are capable of undertaking tasks such as inspection and maintenance. With these robots, companies can autonomously inspect a wide range of assets by incorporating them with sensors. This allows one to automatically and safely inspect power lines, oil and gas facilities, pipelines, transport systems, and other infrastructure which are dangerous for humans.

Many leading oil companies such as BP and Statoil are making use of these robots in their processes. For instance, in the US Gulf of Mexico, BP’s Thunder Horse oil platform uses the ‘Maggie’ robot, which is equipped with magnetic tracks, to inspect the surroundings. It carries out this task by moving along the pipes that connect the oil unit to the sea floor. Similarly, drones are also used to inspect areas that are tough to access. The adoption of these robots has enabled companies to reduce costs, acquire accurate information and improve safety in these difficult working environments.

With such effective parameters, there is no doubt that the service robots industry is poised for growth!

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