Robotics as Service (RaaS) business model: The next disruptive technology set to impact businesses

Shared services are increasingly gaining popularity as they are convenient, cost-effective and quicker to implement in business, especially when compared to creating or purchasing a customized one.

Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) were the first to get introduced and are already being implemented. As more businesses are undergoing a complete digital transformation, newer technologies such as Automation, Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence, and Robotics are being used for better process efficiency and to address the growing business demands.

Robotics as a Service (RaaS) is a unique model which is a combination of cloud computing, AI, robotics and shared services. With RaaS, clients don’t really need to buy an integrated solution; they can, instead, lease the robotic devices as a cloud based service.

RaaS offers flexible purchasing procedure that helps buyers maintain their bottom line.  Further to this, enhanced employee engagement, customer satisfaction and loyalty are some of the turnaround factors which makes Robotics as a Service the darling of futuristic businesses.

Robotics as a Service (RaaS) – Robots on Cloud and Rented <h2>

 RaaS is available for businesses in two ways – robotics as a cloud service and robots on rental. Both are equally desirable for businesses.

Robotics as a cloud service lets businesses store data that are collected by the robots in the cloud. The robots across various locations such as warehouses or retail stores are connected over the internet. They get access to the shared software (SaaS) and cloud storage.  The data captured by robots across different locations can be stacked away in a centrally stored cloud based system and can be accessed by humans. This will ensure seamless data and process flow without disrupting the existing businesses. Moreover, this will add value to organizations operating hundreds of robots, with each robots performing different tasks.

On the other hand, businesses that find it challenging to invest in robots leverage the power of robotics by renting robots and subscribing to the shared software model. This is a popular model among businesses as it offers cost affordability, accessibility and feasibility.

How can Robotics as a Service (RaaS) Evolve? 

While the technologies can evolve by providing innovative and efficient solutions to the businesses, the businesses can leverage robots to engage their resources into more human-intensive processes such as decision-making and processes requiring more analytical thinking.

Robots are evolving on a day to day basis, along with their supporting technologies. They are getting ready to deal with more diverse information; and as their ability for perceiving data increases, so does their power to make more complex decisions.

As working environments become more diverse, robots need to become more dynamic, yet remain easy to program and customize. The need of the hour is smaller but better performing robots that can function autonomously and without endangering the human workforce. And all this must come with affordability.

Better technology inventions, especially in the open source arena will help create better robots.

Industries poised to benefit from Robotics as a Service (RaaS)

 “Robotics as a technology has really reached its tipping point,” states IDC Manufacturing Insights research manager John Santagate. “Robotic capabilities continue to expand while increasing investment in robot development is driving competition and helping to bring down the costs associated with robots.”

While Robotics as a Service Model is widely preferred in the automotive industry, there is an increase in the adoption of this model in various industries like retail, healthcare, logistics, agriculture, electronics and education as well. This growth is being driven by increase in labor costs, skilled labor shortage and reduced price of robotic systems.

Two of the fastest growing industries that are turning to RaaS are healthcare and manufacturing.At present, the manufacturing industry invests the most in robots while healthcare is picking up and expected to spend more in the coming years. Although robotic surgery at this moment is extremely expensive, the costs are expected to come down in the near future.

RaaS offers numerous possibilities for mid segment and big box retailers.  While medium sized retailers use robots for basic stock monitoring and assessments, big box retailers prefer robots for customer interaction, predicting product demand and availability using analytics. Amazon and other big box retailers like Walgreens, Staples and Gap Inc, use robots in their distribution centers for improved packaging and shipping activities.

Warehousing and order fulfillment is also gearing up for ‘Robotics as a Service model’, as they claim to help them enhance their operational efficiency, increase ROI and ultimately protect their upfront capital. For instance, in a period of demand, instead of using a temporary labor set up to meet the productivity gap, organizations can use mobile robots to cater to the need.

Future challenges to be addressed in RaaS

RaaS has its own fundamental technical issues to deal with before becoming a mainstream reality. These include:

Cognition

Cognition is the ability of robots to perceive, understand and navigate in dynamic environments. Robot cognition is one of the key technical domain challenges that needs to be addressed in order to shape the future of robotics.

Manipulation 

Robots have to learn to adapt themselves to the environment and handle objects more precisely so that they can handle diverse tasks and use cases.

Interaction

Just as humans learn by interacting with their peers, robots can also learn to interact better with their human counterparts. The biggest challenge here is to be able to comprehend human communication and work alongside with them without any safety issues.

Conclusion

RaaS is still in its nascent stage of development. What the robotics industry really now require is creative ideas and exciting business challenges. With growing focus on productivity challenges and a deep understanding of new environment that service robotics can actually be leveraged, RaaS will indeed accelerate innovation and disrupt entire business operations in various industries across the globe.

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Author : Seethu Mathew Date : 05 Jul 2018