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At a keynote during its Amazon Web Services (AWS) re: Invent 2021 conference today, Amazon AWS launched IoT RoboRunner, a new robot service designed to make it easier for businesses to build and deploy apps that enable fleets of robots to work together. Together with IoT RoboRunner, Amazon announced AWS Robotics Startup Accelerator, an incubator program in partnership with the nonprofit organization MassRobotics to tackle challenges in automation, robotics, and industrial Internet of Things (IoT) technologies.
The introduction of robots – and automation more broadly – in companies is accelerating as the pandemic causes digital transformations. A recent report from Automation World showed that the majority of companies adopting robot technology in the past year did so in order to reduce labor costs, increase capacity and navigate the shortage of vacancies. The same study showed that 44.9% of companies now consider robots in their assembly and production facilities as an integral part of daily operations.
Amazon – a major investor in robot technology itself – has not been shy about its intention to conquer a larger share of a robot software market expected to be worth over $ 7.52 billion in 2022. In 2018, the company AWS RoboMaker revealed a product that help developers implement robot applications with AI and machine learning features. And earlier this year, Amazon launched SageMaker Reinforcement Learning Kubeflow Components, a toolkit that supports the RoboMaker service to orchestrate robotic technology workflows.
The IoT RoboRunner, which is currently in preview, builds on the technology already in use at Amazon’s robotic control department stores. It allows AWS customers to connect robots and existing automation software to orchestrate work across operations, by combining data from each type of robot in a fleet and standardizing data types such as facilities, location and robot task data in a central warehouse.
The goal of the IoT RoboRunner is to simplify the process of building management apps for fleets of robots, according to Amazon. As companies increasingly rely on robot technology to automate their operations, they choose different types of robots, making it more difficult to organize their robots efficiently. Each robotic vendor and work management system has its own, often incompatible control software, data format and data warehouse. And when a new robot is added to a fleet, programming is required to connect the control software to work management systems and program the logic of management apps.
Developers can use the IoT RoboRunner to access the data required to build robot technology management apps and leverage pre-built software libraries to create apps for tasks such as division of labor. In addition to this, the IoT RoboRunner can be used to deliver metrics and KPIs via APIs for administrative dashboards.
IoT RoboRunner competes with robot management systems from Freedom Robotics, Exotec and others. But Amazon claims that IoT RoboRunner’s integration with AWS – including services like SageMaker, Greengrass and SiteWise – gives it an edge over competitors in the market.
“By using the AWS IoT RoboRunner, robot developers no longer need to manage robots in silos and can more efficiently automate tasks across a centralized control facility,” Amazon wrote in a blog post. “As we look to the future, we see more companies adding more robots of more types. It’s complex to harness the power of all these robots, but we’re dedicated to helping companies get the full value of their automation by making it easier to optimize robots through a single system view. “
AWS Robotics Startup Accelerator
Amazon also announced Robotics Startup Accelerator, which the company says will promote robotic companies by giving them resources to develop, prototype, test and commercialize their products and services. “Combined with the technical resources and networks that AWS provides, the strategic partnership will help robotic startups and industry in general experiment and innovate, while connecting startups and their technologies to the AWS customer base,” Amazon wrote in a blog post.
Robot startups – especially in industrial robotics – have attracted the eyes of venture capitalists as the trend toward automation continues. From March 2020 to March 2021, venture firms poured $ 6.3 billion into robotic companies, an increase of nearly 50% from March 2019 to March 2020, according to data from PitchBook. In the longer term, investment in robotics has more than quintupled over the last five years to $ 5.4 billion in 2020 from $ 1 billion in 2015.
“Looking ahead, expectations from robot suppliers are bullish, and many believe that with the choice over and increased availability of COVID-19 vaccines on the horizon, much demand will return in industries where market inequality has slowed robot adoption,” “wrote Automation World in its report. “Meanwhile, those industries that are already seeing an increase are expected to plow forward at an even faster pace.”
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