The robotics market is a complex and multifaceted industry. It requires long development periods and talent that is in high-demand, to overcome the challenges it poses. In this post, we'll cover three of the biggest challenges facing robotics startups — and explain how we, at JT, think they can be solved.
What is a service robot?
We’re familiar with the use of robots in manufacturing, to automate production tasks on the factory floor, or substantially increase output levels by delivering in minutes what a human would be able to do in hours or days. But now, the focus has shifted — professional service robots are being designed to exist beyond manufacturing settings, helping automate tasks in retail, hospitality, healthcare and even at home. Some service robots are small — like the iRobot Roomba vacuum cleaner — and others are far larger, like Toyota’s autonomous car.
What demands do we place on the service robotics sector?
Reliability is arguably the most important characteristic of successful robotics. People expect autonomous machinery to be perfect, not just smarter and more efficient than other alternatives. This can be seen most clearly in self-driving vehicles, which have a much better safety record than the average person but still aren't viewed as adequately reliable in the eyes of the public.
Like all tech, robots also need lightning-quick response times. They must be able to respond to input within milliseconds or they risk being deemed too slow for today's tech-savvy user.
And last, but not least, robots need to be able to deliver large files, often video, in real-time over a fast, secure network.
On paper, these needs may appear obvious. After all, no company is planning on designing a slow or unreliable service robotics solution. However, meeting — and indeed, surpassing — these expectations is often more challenging than it may seem.
The three service robotic market challenges
1. Lack of mobility
A major difference between the robots of the present (big metal arms that assist in manufacturing) to robots of the future (multi-purpose mechanical pets, for example) is mobility — the ability for robots to follow us around or navigate an environment autonomously. This will be important for service robots to fully support owners, and will have an immediate impact on reliability perceptions.
Mobility makes connectivity difficult, especially for robots that are deployed outdoors. Connectivity is either expensive, unreliable, too limited in coverage, or all of the above. Since many robots require connectivity to function, robots that are mobile in remote locations will have a difficult journey through product development. Mobility is not only a challenge of engineering, but also of logistics. As mentioned, service robots need robust network coverage to support their movement — if connectivity lags or drops, the robot won’t be able to perform tasks as it is meant to.
What’s more, this amount of mobility will require a long-lasting power source; being on-the-go and seamlessly connected will drain the battery quickly, requiring frequent recharging where possible. For companies who deploy service robots globally, this poses a significant challenge.
2. Low cybersecurity
Robots face the very real challenge of cybersecurity. This is a serious issue in the IoT and robotics industries, as both are responsible for sensitive data being gathered and transmitted by trusted devices. Robots that are deployed in public areas are at even greater risk, as they are physically accessible to vandals and hackers.
A sensitive spot in robots' security is the network they are connected to. Poor network security can create an opening for digital attacks, and a lack of encryption leaves data vulnerable to infiltration.
Not only can hackers intercept sensitive data from robots, but they can also take control over a robot's functions in certain instances. This type of breach can create a serious and potentially dangerous situation; eroding user trust in service robotics, and compromising the device’s ability to send files as intended.
3. Performance doubts
As mentioned, it's essential that robots are able to perform tasks quickly and reliably, or else they will fail to produce long-term engagement in the marketplace. However, ensuring a high level of reliability in robotics can be complex, as there are many variables outside of the manufacturer's control.
These variables include location, external interference, connectivity, weather, and user errors, as well as many more that are completely unpredictable. All of these factors make uninterrupted performance in robotics a major challenge — one that can really only be addressed after rigorous testing both in and out of the development lab.
Having the right connectivity partner can solve these challenges
A great connectivity partner will do more than hook a company’s robots up to a wider network, they’ll also be instrumental in navigating and overcoming the challenges service robots face today.
Using expert problem-solving skills, connectivity providers suggest ways of making service robots more mobile, secure and reliable; saving engineering teams precious time and other resources, along the way.
For example, an established operator can offer additional layers of security for your devices at the network level. This security will work in tandem with security that's added at the device level, substantially reducing the risk of digital attacks by keeping data away from general internet via private networks (VPN).
Some connectivity partners can offer global connectivity as well, improving the reliability of your robots. Multi-network non-steered roaming solutions can reduce the likelihood of lagging or dropping connections, whilst also maximising the mobility of your robots.
Establishing connectivity is one of the most important steps in bringing your robot to market. To make your robotics project as streamlined and seamless as possible, you should partner with a connectivity provider who can offer a truly global network coverage, with the ability to manage the connectivity via one single platform.
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The partner should also be able to offer you flexible, cutting-edge solutions specifically designed for your business needs. Last but not the least, network security is another key concern, you need a partner who can provide you with the best in digital protection, with private networks (APN and VPN), and fixed IP SIM cards.
To learn more about Robotics and its connection with the Internet of Things, and what role connectivity plays inRobotics, download our latest IoRT white paper.