Gone are the days when the Internet of Things was a novelty. Today, IoT is increasingly transforming every aspect of our everyday lives. At home personal assistants such as Alexa and Siri are expected to form the foundation of smart homes while in the business world AI-powered analytics are changing companies.
Statistics indicate that by the end of 2018, connected devices will top 11 billion excluding computers and phones. Clearly, Internet of Things is not slowing down any time soon and it follows that its impact will be felt across many more industries as the IoT underlying technology evolves.
One of the industries that have been greatly impacted by IoT so far is robotics.
The Impact of IoT on Robotics So Far
As early as 2013, leaders in the robotics industry had already started integrating IoT into robotics. Particularly in 2014, a well-known robotics authority partnered with the Microsoft Azure IoT platform and connected 60,000 devices and 259 robots. The goal was to create a connected factory that improved efficiency.
True to form, they achieved the goal and since then, more cobots manufacturers and research institutes have focused their efforts on finding ways to fully integrate robots with IoT.
Let us digress for a moment and first answer the question, what value does IoT add to robotics?
The Value Internet of Things Brings Could Add to Robotics
Internet of Things is all about connecting seemingly unlikely devices to the internet and ensuring communications happens. That means your fridge can be connected to your fitness band and after a run or strenuous workout suggest what best to eat depending on what is available.
Now, think about this in terms of a factory where the manufacturing of a given product X occurs. For the successful manufacturing of that product; different machines, components, and devices must work together until the manufacturing process is complete.
With the Internet of Things in play, the collaborative robots, the machines, sensors, and any other devices on the manufacturing floor are continuously communicating. That means if a pick and place robot at point A notices an error after the fact, it is able to tell the packaging robot at point T to halt packaging until the error is resolved.
Another example of IoT in a factory environment as showcased by yet another robot manufacturer is maintenance. That means a robot can self-analyze and anytime an update is required or the robot realizes a possible problem, then it communicates and schedules a maintenance check.
Four major benefits can be deduced from the two mentioned scenarios.
- Improved efficiency in the manufacturing process.
- Time is saved due to errors being caught and handled immediately.
- Productivity and ROI are ensured communication creates a smoother manufacturing process.
- Simple problems are addressed before they become massive like in the case of the self-analyzing robot.
Of course, these benefits can be replicated in any environment where robots have been employed. The food and beverage industry, for instance, or construction. With that in mind, what should we expect in the future regarding IoT and robotics?
What Does the Future Hold?
A reputable analyst—Gartner—speculates that by 2020, 20.4 billion IoT devices will be in use. Another analyst—IDC—predicts that spending on IoT will hit 1 trillion dollars by 2020.
Such statistics prove one thing; the dream of a completely smart factory is not that farfetched. Research is ongoing and countless research papers have already been written.
One paper, in particular, proposes the Internet of Robotic Things (IoRT). According to the paper, complete adoption of IoRT will give rise to intelligent, collaborative, self-adaptive and context-aware robots while still maintaining affordability.
Sounds more like a dream but if there is one thing history has shown us is that one can never underestimate the ever-evolving nature of technology.