The Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem is exploding. Corporations, governments, and startups are teaming up to build new infrastructure and products. Sensor technology is improving while price points are lowering. Meanwhile, companies are testing robots within warehouses for asset monitoring, tracking, and optimization.
The hunger for new solutions has never been stronger. Here's a snapshot of the trends and startups that corporate innovation teams should watch:
- Long-term growth. The International Federation of Robotics predicts that by 2018 the industrial robotics industry will grow by 15% percent. Early signs of growth included Amazon's $775 million acquisition and deployment of autonomous Kiva robots. ARC Research predicts in 2016 two or more companies will start deploying autonomous robotics in a similar fashion to Amazon.
- Funding in emerging areas. Looking at the wider robotics industry, overall funding reached almost $1B in 2015, a 170% percent increase over 2014. Most of the VC funding went to medical robotics companies and drone companies, but emerging areas like agriculture and service robots also gained interest.
- Infrastructure investment. GE, IBM, and Cisco are leading the push to develop the infrastructure for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). However, startups in the space are receiving notable funding. Startup funding for IIoT grew 83% in 2015, and the general IoT space has accumulated over $7B in total funding across 887 deals in only six years.
- Robots at human speed. Smart robots in logistics will improve worker efficiency and product delivery times. For instance, Kiva robots at Amazon's fulfillment centers are enabling workers to perform work at a rate that is 2-3 times typical speeds. In addition, companies like Rethink Robotics, Carbon Robotics and Universal Robots have developed robotic arms that are working alongside employees to enhance employee productivity.
- RoboCV is creating autonomous warehouse robotics that eliminate the need for people in repetitive or unproductive tasks.
- Fetch Robotics created two types of robots that can be used to fulfill shipping orders: Fetch and Freight.
- Harvest Automation was formed by former iRobot executives and creates robots that increase worker productivity while lowering fulfillment costs.
- Clearpath Robotics builds autonomous mobile robotics solutions to automate the dull, dirty, and dangerous.
- Helium developed a sensor network designed around custom radio technology designed for corporate customers.
- Cargosense is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) company focused on providing supply chain intelligence that helps optimize logistics networks.
Locus Robotics has introduced the world to robots that work alongside humans and wasnamed in the Robotics Business Review's RBR50, an annual list of the 50 most innovative robotics companies in the world.
The company aims to increase the capacity of a warehouse to fulfill orders, with solutions focusing on key metrics such as units per hour (UPH), cost per unit (CPU) and service level agreements (SLA). Unlike more generalized software or hardware solutions, Locus is made to work specifically in warehouses right out of the box. It also easily integrates with existing systems to receive work and intelligently decide how to prioritize requests most efficiently. This technology allows Locus to be 5-8 times faster than traditional radio frequency (RF) picking. The Locus robots also readily adapt to existing warehouse infrastructure and do not need specialized shelving, racking or workstations in order to conduct their roles effectively.
Locus Robotics wants to bring robotic technology similar to Amazon's Kiva robots to small retailers, allowing for the entire ecosystem to participate in the smart warehouse transformation. The startup currently has at least 10 robots in action, with an intention to grow that number in 2017. Its robot staff already handles client projects and is looking for additional customers in the coming year, making the company a prime resource for retailers looking to cut their distribution times.
Samsara's warehouse sensor solutions are centered around the concept of simplicity. Only 10% percent of large corporations are using IP-based industrial internet technology. The other 90% percent use older solutions that work with certain smart devices but aren't able to scale effectively due to financial, labor, and time constraints.
Samsara offers a sensor solution with connected sensors using Bluetooth along with custom software to get all the information collected from the sensors online. The company also offers technology that allows customers to communicate with the sensors on the ground directly through an online interface. By offering the full integrated suite of technologies involved in the sensor deployment and analysis process, Samsara provides a cohesive way for warehouses to overhaul their outdated systems in one go.
Right now, Samsara is focused on deploying solutions in the food and medicine space to help monitor temperatures in storage spaces. The company plans to explore a range of other use cases such as water leakage monitoring and chemical imbalances in industrial spaces.
With the help of Samsara's sensors, corporations in a variety of industries will be able to monitor their infrastructure with a singular interface that provides real-time notifications. Security and management processes that, in the past, required a range of technologies and a ton of manual processes are made highly efficient through Samsara's solution.
The future of connectivity will involve close collaboration between corporations and startups.
This landscape assessment is just the tip of the iceberg—RocketSpace can help you find opportunities to work with and alongside the world's most innovative startups. Check out our Corporate Innovation Services for more information on how we can help.
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