July 2018 RBR Stories You May Have Missed

Credit: iStock.

August 01, 2018      

Once again, the calendar has turned from July 2018, and we’re staring down the month of August. While much of the world has been busy enjoying the summer and taking vacation, we’ve been hard at work producing outstanding content on Robotics Business Review.

In fact, we had so much good content last month that we’re going to cheat a little and present more than our usual list of the top five articles – two of our pieces are about the same company. So while you’ve been either busy working on robots or taking some well-deserved time off, here are our favorite stories from July 2018 that you should catch up on, in handy list format.

5. Manufacturing Reshoring from Robotics Hasn’t Happened – Yet, Says Study

A key argument for those promoting robotics and automation for companies has been the idea that utilizing automation could potentially bring back jobs to the U.S. that were previously outsourced to other countries. This concept, known as reshoring, gained a lot of steam in recent years, but evidence supporting this idea has mostly been anecdotal or cited on a case-by-case basis.

A July 2018 study by A.T. Kearney titled “Reshoring in Reverse Again” makes the claim that there has been little evidence that automation has led to manufacturing reshoring, with data showing that imports from traditional offshoring countries have reached all-time highs. Robotics Business Review Senior Editor Eugene Demaitre spoke with a co-author of the report, as well as dissenters The Reshoring Institute and ARM Institute, about the study.

Read the story here.

4. How Microlocation Will Open New Frontiers for Robotics, Smart Cities

Humatics microlocation system

Humatics’ microlocation technology is intended to enable more precision.

At any given time, most humans know where they are, unless somehow Waze has rerouted them off the highway during heavy traffic. For robots and autonomous cars, knowing precisely where they are can be a matter of success or failure. While GPS is great for determining an object’s location, it has limits when you go indoors, underground, or in large cities where “urban canyons” are present.

Aiming to fix this problem is Humatics, which uses radio frequency sensors and analytics software to provide microlocation capabilities for robots, cars, and other systems. I spoke with the company’s CEO, David Mindell, about the potential uses for microlocation across the robotics and automation landscape.

Read the story here.

3. Robotic Carts From 6 River Systems Maximize Productivity With the Cloud, Human Pickers

6 River Systems Chuck Robotic Carts

6 River Systems’ chuck roams the warehouse. Credit: Keith Shaw

While jobs, offshoring, and reshoring are on the minds of many, companies in the warehouse, e-commerce fulfillment, and logistics space continue to see labor shortages – especially when hiring “pickers” who can grab products stored in large warehouses.

As part of our initiative to visit with lots of robotics companies in the Boston area, in July 2018, Robotics Business Review visited 6 River Systems in Waltham, Mass. The company is selling robotic carts called “Chuck” to help improve the efficiency of human pickers and help warehouse companies with their labor shortages.

Read the story here.

2. Drone Pilot Training Programs Turn to Simulation Software

It’s becoming clear that commercial drone activity is gaining steam this year. To help satisfy the growing demand for commercial drone pilots, many community colleges and other companies are offering drone pilot training programs. But with the possibility of students trying to fly, and potentially break, a thousand-dollar-or-more drone, colleges are looking at simulation software that can help with their classes.

Little Arms Studios has developed one such simulator, the Zephyr Drone Simulator, which lets pilots begin their training in a computer game-like scenario. It can also teach them valuable skills. We spoke with a bunch of colleges and programs using the software. In addition, we provide readers with a list of some colleges with some cool commercial drone-training programs.

Read the story here.

1. Amazon Robotics’ Tye Brady: Humans at the Heart of Robot Success; and 1A. Amazon Awarded Patent for Mobile Conveyor Component

Tye Brady Amazon Robotics

Tye Brady, Amazon Robotics

OK, here’s where we’re cheating a bit. Two stories regarding Amazon were must-reads on the site this month. In the first article, we had a question-and-answer session in July 2018 with Tye Brady, who helps lead Amazon Robotics and its mobile warehouse robots to meet the extremely high demand from Amazon customers who want their products in two days or less.

Brady described how decisions around robots always have human workers in mind as well – it’s not just about adding more robots.

Read the story here.

The second Amazon piece worth looking at highlights a patent that was awarded to the company around a mobile conveyor robot component that could let companies set up flexible and mobile conveyor systems on the fly.

While the company often applies and receives patents for technology that it never commercializes, it’s an interesting idea to see how companies combining conveyor systems with mobile robots.

Read the story here.

Noteworthy reports worth downloading:

If you’re an RBR Insider, be sure to check out the following free downloads, reports, and webcasts that we published this past month:

That’s it for July 2018! See you next month as we get ready for fall!