Global Growth Trends
at a glance
Smart Robot Market:
$16B+ by 20251
Industrial Automation Market:
$352B by 20242
Number of 5G Users:
1 Billion by 20233
Computer Vision Market:
$19B+ by 20254
Healthcare AI Market:
$6B by 20215
1 Grand View Research, 2 Transparency Market Research, 3 TechRepublic, 4 Market Insights, 5 Forbes
The ROBO Global® Industry Classification system includes 12 subsectors that focus specifically on the intersection between technology and its applications. The result is an investible universe of market leaders with strong growth prospects and revenue generation across the landscape of robotics, automation, and AI.
The manufacturing of items is incomplete without the material handling and distribution channels that bring the objects to their intended users. The many economic advantages to speedy and error-free distribution, such as operating with low-inventory and being responsive to customer demands, is a significant growth area for robotics and automation. This is continually reducing the costs for end-users, both businesses and consumers.
Food & Agriculture
Feeding and sustaining the world continues to be one of our most important economic activities. A new generation of autonomous systems, sensors and data analytics tools are bringing tremendous benefits, not only to farmers and breeders in terms of increased yields and lower costs, but also to the environment in terms of improved water, pesticides and fertilizer use. Meanwhile, the food processing industry continues to automate aggressively to meet increasingly demanding volume, cost and safety requirements. Emerging markets offer significant penetration upside for traditional automation equipment from dairy and beverage to bakery and meat processing to packaging. In the more mature food markets, robotics and automation helps companies develop a more agile response to changing customer tastes and increasingly stringent safety requirements.
Security & Surveillance
Removing people from harm’s way has always been a main driver for robotics research. Up until recently, it has been difficult for machines to duplicate a human’s flexibility and cognitive skills. However, with today’s technologies, unmanned aircraft and ground vehicles are now capable of detecting hazardous materials, disposing of bombs, operating in space and performing critical national defense functions (surveillance).
Computing, AI & Processing
Autonomous systems must make decisions at various levels, from determining the state of the environment they are operating in, to optimally planning actions and controlling motion. It is analogous to our brain, and is what allows the processing of information to produce actuation to take place. This requires raw computing and processing power as well as increasingly advanced software. Computing can vary from embedded systems smaller than a fingernail to hyper-scale data centers implementing sophisticated algorithms including Artificial Intelligence (AI). Machines are getting smarter as improvements in data storage and processing power have enabled the emergence of AI across a rapidly expanding range of applications. Advancements in AI, especially machine learning, are key to the growth of autonomous systems. AI also encompasses perception, such as machine vision and natural language processing.
As global healthcare costs continue to rise, robotics and automation is poised to provide a countering force to this trend. Through rehabilitation, diagnostics, exoskeletons and elderly care, using robotics and autonomous systems promises to drastically reduce costs, while improving quality of life. In addition, robotics and automation can transcend cost-cutting by using robots for difficult surgeries and neurological treatments that were previously unfeasible.
From interactive robots for entertainment to automating household chores, consumer companies work to make everyday lives easier and more enjoyable. The Internet of Things promises to usher in a new era of interconnectivity. By communicating through the existing internet infrastructure, devices will no longer be isolated islands of limited capabilities. This impact will be particularly pronounced for these types of consumer products, which need to be inexpensive for wide adoption. Through the internet, consumer robotics will finally become broadly affordable to individuals.
In order for a system to exhibit autonomy, it must be able to sense its environment, in addition to determining its own internal state. For human beings, these are called exteroception and proprioception. Sensing is important for the same reasons that our exteroceptive senses (sight, sound, etc.), and our proprioceptive senses (ability to know where our limbs are and what they are doing without directly observing them) are important for human beings. For robotic systems, however, we are not limited to the standard senses. Almost anything that can be measured can be made into a sensor.
Actuation is the means by which machines interact with the physical world. For human beings, this mainly refers to our limbs, and in particular, our hands. However, machines are not limited to manipulation. Almost anything that has an effect on the physical world can be made into an actuator. Actuation techniques include electric, hydraulic (compressed fluid), mechanical, and pneumatic (compressed air).
Exploration, extraction, and the maintenance of the energy infrastructure require extensive and growing resources. Robotics and automation continues to expand from structured
environments, such as warehouses and factories, to unstructured ones, such as outdoors, underground, and underwater. The energy sector will reap the rewards of this transition with lower operational costs.
An autonomous system is made up of many components (sensors, actuators, and computational units), which can be distributed over large spaces. Integration consists of architecting a system – figuring out how to put all of these components together – to achieve the desired objective in a robust, high performance, and cost-efficient way.
Traditionally, products are built either by assembling separate parts, or by removing material from a larger work-piece. 3D printing, also called additive manufacturing, adds yet another capability by depositing different types of materials where they are needed. One of its main benefits is the potential for customization that is not economically feasible with traditional techniques.
Broadly speaking, this is the main way in which companies take raw materials through a manufacturing process to create products. It is also the earliest successful application for robotics and automation – for example, automobile assembly – and continues to be one of its largest growth areas.
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