September 20, 2020

New Analyst Report Touts Growing Role of Autonomous Robots in Wake of COVID-19

Brain Corp
Brain Corp

The growth prospects of the autonomous mobile robot (AMR) industry were already in motion before the COVID-19 pandemic began. Now, it’s set to explode, and businesses that invest in robotics will be rewarded with more robust operations and increased productivity.

This prediction is one of the key takeaways from a new ABI Research report entitled, “The Business Value of Autonomous Mobile Robots in the Wake of COVID-19.” The 15-page report, a collaboration with Brain Corp, explores the growth potential and value of AMRs in the wake of the global health crisis.

“Those end users that begin deploying AMRs now will be rewarded with a more robust operation that can be trusted to operate in a world where pandemics and other major externalities are increasingly prevalent,” writes author Rian Whitton, a senior analyst at ABI Research, a leading technology analyst firm that covers the global robotics industry.

“Those that are slow to incorporate this promising technology will not just see lower productivity, but will miss out on the dividends paid by robotic platforms, which will be a key generator for data analysis and IoT insights in the next 5 to 10 years.”

Whitton says the onset of the coronavirus has upended the global economy, causing significant disruption to worker operations and cripping supply chains, especially in retail. “Cue the need for public-facing AMRs to supplement human labor and carry out dull, dirty, and dangerous tasks,” he states. Robotic applications for cleaning and maintenance, inventory management and data collection, and material handling and in-store delivery as high-growth areas, will see the biggest upticks, according to the report.

Other major takeaways include:

  • The emergence of a new class of “public-facing” AMRs — To date, most AMRs have operated in tightly controlled environments, usually in manufacturing or warehouse settings. But to provide value in dynamic public settings, like retail, airports, or hospitals, AMRs require a more sophisticated technology stack to move around safely within crowds, without the constant need for human intervention. These new “public-facing AMRs,” like the kind powered by Brain Corp, will gain accelerated adoption.
  • The importance of a centralized platform to manage robotic applications — With the number of robotic shipments expected to skyrocket, especially in grocery and retail, businesses need to think about how they manage different robotic applications, from floor scrubbing to inventory delivery to shelf analytics. Whitton cites the benefits of a centralized, cloud-connected platform to enable for more holistic fleet management, including standardized safety, centralized data hosting and reporting, and a more consistent user experience across applications.
  • The benefits of an OEM model for early adoption — While many AMR developers are manufacturing purpose built robots from the ground up, a smaller number of companies, such as Brain Corp, have engaged in an OEM strategy, where they supply AI software to original equipment manufacturers to create autonomous machines. The benefits of this model are cost-effectiveness, the ability to automate a wider variety of systems, and enhanced quality because it combines proven equipment with best-in-class artificial intelligence.

“To the end users, the OEM model means a more cost effective solution with greater flexibility and a shorter time to market. It is therefore not surprising that end users like Walmart and others have been deploying thousands of autonomous ride-on scrubbers,” Whitton says.

When choosing a robotic partner, Whitton says end users should focus on pedigree and experience, i.e., technology companies that have deployed thousands of robots, not hundreds. The larger scale provides more access to edge cases, which are used to refine the software and improve user experiences.

To read more, including Whitton’s exclusive recommendations for implementing a 24-month strategy for deploying robotic solutions, download the entire report.

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