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How Cloud Robotics Is Fueling Enterprise Innovation

Experts believe increasing investments of cloud-based technology will fuel innovations in the enterprise.

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Robots and automation systems are no longer limited to the laboratory or high end research work and is gaining significant momentum in the enterprise. Take for example, the case of Google’s autonomous car. It uses the network to index maps, images, and data on prior driving trajectories, weather, and traffic to determine spatial localization and make decisions. Data from each car is shared via the network for statistical optimization and machine learning performed by grid computing in the Cloud.

Experts believe increasing investments of cloud-based technology will fuel innovations in the robotics sector. This in turn will help enterprises come up with greater innovation and increased efficiency at a much lower cost.

The evolution of cloud robots

Google’s James Kuffner coined the term “Cloud Robotics” in 2010. Simply put, cloud robotics is about empowering a robot to work beyond its physical ability. In an interaction with the New York Times, Ken Goldberg, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, defines Cloud robotics as a new way of thinking about robots. “For a long time, we thought that robots were off by themselves, with their own processing power. When we connect them to the cloud, the learning from one robot can be processed remotely and mixed with information from other robots,” he said in the interview.

The idea of connecting a robot to an external computer is not new. Back in the 1990s, Masayuki Inaba at the University of Tokyo explored the concept of a “remote brain,” as he called it, physically separating sensors and motors from high-level “reasoning” software.Over the years, cloud robotics seeks to push that idea to the next level, exploiting the cheap computing power and ubiquitous net connectivity available today.Likewise, robots are also evolving from dim-witted devices to smaller and more intelligent ones. Hence both tend to sync. BobViolino explained in a recent ZDnet post on how this would matter to decision makers. “When you mix cloud computing with robotics, you get more powerful and smarter robots capable of communicating and collaborating with each other so that they can accomplish a variety of tasks more effectively and of course at a much cheaper price,” he said.

New innovations in Cloud Robotics

Innovations in cloud robotics have gained significant momentum, with initiatives by large companies such as Google and IBM and the engagement of research institutes in several active projects around the world. IBM for example, started offering Watson as a cloud service in 2015, and since then the company has found itself at the center of a range of new ventures.

The US National Science Foundation also awards grant to UC Berkeley researchers to investigate “Fog Robotics”: novel cloud-edge system architectures that can efficiently ensure privacy and security for robotics applications in analogy with Fog Computing.

On the basis of component, the global cloud robotics market is segmented into hardware, software and services. In 2015-16, the hardware segment contributed nearly 74% to the overall revenue generated in the global cloud robotics market. In the forthcoming years, hardware and software segments alike will exhibit robust opportunities. The rising demand for advanced technologies such as robotics as a service (Raas) and platform as a service (PaaS) will help the software segment gain momentum in the near future.

Duncan Anderson, IBM’s European CTO of the Watson Program, said in a blog, “We started to think about how we could make the Watson technology more consumable and less resource intensive. And the emergence of the cloud story and the APIs we provide for cognitive services was one avenue for that.”

IBM’s super-computing cloud services use APIs and are focused on enabling more natural communications between people and machines. “And these are all offered as discrete cloud services via a pay-per-use licensing model, the costs start very low,” he said.

Cloud robotics is giving a boost to manufacturers too. US-based advanced technology firm iRobot used Amazon Web Services to connect consumer robotic devices to the cloud.The AWS Cloud infrastructure will enable iRobot to more efficiently develop connected robot technologies and expand the value of robots within the smart home,” said Colin Angle, chairman and CEO of iRobot. “It will allow iRobot to build upon our current robots’ capabilities, improve the customer experience and usher in a new era for how people live at home.”

Google Cloud is working on a new cloud robotics platform that combines the power of AI, robotics, and the cloud. The tech titan believes that the new initiative will enable an open ecosystem of automation solutions that use cloud-connected collaborative robots. In other words, fancy terms such as AI and ML services will now make sense of the unpredictable physical world, enabling efficient robotic automation in highly dynamic environments.

Google is also betting on cloud robotics for surgical and medical purposes. Its life sciences division is working with Johnson & Johnson’s medical device company, Ethicon, to create robots that will aid surgeons in invasive operations, giving operators greater control and accuracy than is manually possible, minimizing trauma and damage to the patient.“We look forward to exploring how smart software could help give surgeons the information they need at just the right time during an operation,” said Andy Conrad, head of the life sciences team at Google.

Other major players in the global cloud robotics market such as Rockwell Automation, Inc., Kuka AG, ABB Group, Universal Robotics, Calvary Robotics, Matrix Industrial Automation and Automation IG, among others are also making significant strides in bring cloud robotics to enhance productivity and boost decision making among decision makers.

Strong growth momentum

The emergence of cloud connected robots and their expanding applications are expected to drive the global cloud robotics market. Cloud connectivity offers increased data storage, collective learning solutions, and increased brain power. Increase in the uptake of cloud robotics is thus on cards subsequent to advancements in the cloud technology. In addition, the surging demand for automation across manufacturing, automotive, defense and logistics, agriculture, and healthcare sectors will push deployment of cloud robotics.

Transparency Market Research (TMR) forecasts the market to expand at an impressive 32.4% CAGR between 2016 and 2024. The global cloud robotics market was valued at US$1.38 bn in 2015. Considering its pace of gain, the market is forecast to reach US$21.94 bn by the end of 2024.

According to Frost and Sullivan, cloud robotics will lead to the development of smart robots that have higher computing efficiency and consume less power. These attributes will drive down the cost of manufacturing as there is less hardware and also result in lower emissions.

“The convergence of cloud robotics with big data, context-aware computing and high-speed ubiquitous wireless networks, along with the use of advanced wireless sensors, could solve connectivity issues that slow response times,” said Technical Insights Research Analyst Mousumi Dasgupta. “Operations that require the execution of tasks in real-time will also need service-oriented robots with on-board processing capabilities.”

Regionally, North America, Asia Pacific, Europe, South America, and the Middle East and Africa constitute the key segments in the global cloud robotics market. While North America emerged as the dominant market in 2015, Asia Pacific will show the highest CAGR during the forecast period. TMR forecasts, the Asia Pacific cloud robotics market to rise at a CAGR of 33.9% between 2016 and 2024. During this time, China and Japan will demonstrate the most lucrative opportunities in the market.

The cloud robotics market is still at a nascent stage, which explains the concentration of leading also because they are the early technology adopters. Emerging nations will soon catch up on account of the increasing demand for advanced technologies witnessed in the region. Over the course of the report’s forecast period the market is thus expected to witness lucrative opportunities in Asia Pacific especially in countries such as India and China. Besides this, the market is forecast to gain traction across emerging markets in South America and the Middle East and Africa.

Likewise, rise in cloud adoption, and increased use of smartphones and tablets, and the commercial robotics are driving the market of cloud robotics, which will start seeing widespread adoption in various sectors in the next 4-5 years, believe experts. Considering the prevalence of cloud computing technology and the emergence of smart connected devices, cloud robotics market may witness strong growth in the coming years, helping enterprises come up with greater innovation at much lower costs with more speed and efficiency.

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