October 10, 2016      

Until recently, if you went to a robotics conference, you would hear about technological innovations and commercial possibilities. While that was true at last month’s RoboBusiness 2016 in San Jose, Calif., there was something else, something more.

It was easy to miss if you were not paying close attention.

Prototypes have become products. Possibilities have become profit models. Out of nowhere, advances in robotics have turned science fiction into hardcore reality that nobody can now escape.

Whether or not you went to this year’s robotics conference, here are five reasons to start changing your business strategy now.

1. Cloud robotics is here

As robots become the new factory workers, how do you train them, especially if they are different in terms of design, innovations, and capabilities? Enter cloud robotics.

According to Fanuc, new robotics — connected to the cloud — can learn a task with up to 90 percent accuracy within eight hours.

What if you are not a manufacturer? Tap cloud robotics to teach bots. Build an in-house app store of very targeted and highly specialized or repeatable applications.

Executives in many companies, industries, and countries are still hotly debating if putting their companies’ mission-critical data in the cloud is a smart idea. The concerns over security remain high.

But cloud robotics is here to stay.

2. Robots are changing the customer experience

Not only is every business constantly trying to improve productivity behind the scenes; it’s also mindful of its customers’ experience. The search for new ideas is nonstop, as we heard at this year’s robotics conference. Can a robot change the customer experience for the better?

Attendees and exhibitors at the 2016 RoboBusiness robotics conference.

Attendees and exhibitors at this year’s RoboBusiness.

That is the promise Savioke is bringing to many hotels. At a Crown Plaza in the Silicon Valley, a robot-butler called Dash is delivering room service and exciting customers. People are bonding with the robot by doing things such as taking pictures with it, hugging it, and talking beyond pleasantries.

If a human hotel worker got too friendly with a guest, he or she might get fired for crossing the line. Not with a robot, though, not yet, anyway.

3. Robots are powering the velocity of trade

A short time ago, when you bought an item online, getting a notification about the delivery date in days or weeks was good enough. Today, you can expect to get your item the same day, even within hours. In London, Amazon is delivering take-out food within an hour. Go figure.

What is powering this intense velocity of trade?


All kinds of robots are automating the supply chain, from warehouses to customer delivery. Examples discussed at RoboBusiness include Delft Robotics’ robotic arm for inventory management, OTTO Motors’ self-driving vehicle for indoor use, and Aethon’s autonomous mobile robot.

Retailers and customers are demanding speed, accuracy, and flexibility, so there is only one choice — deliver or die.

4. IoT and robotics are merging

Call it “Industry 4.0,” the rise of the “smart factory,” “intelligent manufacturing” or the “Internet of robotic things.” The bottom line is that the industrial Internet of Things and robotics are merging.

They’re already connected: Machines, robots, applications, and cloud are working in a complex web. By the time RoboBusiness 2017 comes along, the lines separating IoT and robotics will have become invisible.

How does it affect your business, though?

You can become the next Adidas, which is creating a highly-automated “speed factory.” The sportswear maker wants to cut the time it takes for products and parts to move through its supply chain after a retailer places an order.

Today, it is about speed. Tomorrow, it will be about personalizing products. Then, it could be flexibility, making different products within the same factory driven by real-time demand.

Now, your business has the option to push a slow incumbent to the sidewalk.

More on Topics From the RoboBusiness 2016 Robotics Conference:

5. Robots are the new source of competitive advantage

For years, you’ve heard how Apple’s iPhone business, by itself, beat many leading companies in terms of revenue. What made iPhone incredibly successful was design, quality, and features.

Now, even as iPhone sales have recently taken a hit, Apple is looking to artificial intelligence as a new source of competitive advantage. The camera in the newest iPhone 7 is using machine learning to bring the “bokeh” effect to images.

Salesforce has built an AI platform, Einstein, to bring actionable insights to its CRM software suite.

Robotics is no longer just about automating operations. It is also a new source of competitive advantage.

The name of the robotics conference, “RoboBusiness,” refers to robotics and business. Of course, this includes both hardware and software robots. Technology is the first that springs to mind when we talk about robotics.

Do not let the glitz of that technology blindside you. Even with robotics, a few fundamentals remain the same.

The developments above demonstrate that robotics is about business, not just technology.

What is in your company’s robotics strategy?