This post includes critical event management and operational opportunities for robots and drones.
I define robots as internally or externally controlled machines that can perform many types of tasks in the physical world, from very simple to highly complex. They are mobile in varying degrees depending on the requirements of the user. They can learn or they may simply do one repetitive task. Some can think. Robots are our partners and not our enemy. Fun Fact: The earliest recorded robot was built in 270
BC by an ancient Greek engineer and inventor named Ctesibus. He made organs and water clocks with movable figures.
Robots are no longer relegated to science fiction or the comical ‘danger Will Robinson’ robot on Lost in Space. Robots are a here-and-now emerging technology that you must have on your organization and career radar. They serve many purposes and are benefiting more and more industries every day. They can reduce expenses, drive revenue and change the way you do business.
The scope of robotics is growing rapidly, including in autonomous vehicles, offices, hospitals and factories. There are even mobile follow-me suitcases and pets!
Atom size machines built with nano-technology are also robotic devices. They can travel through your body and fix organs or alert medical professionals of impending danger. For the most part in this post we will concentrate on larger robotic devices.
The goal of this post is not to teach you how to build a robot from scratch, although I do briefly describe how you can begin creating simple and useful robots. The post is focused on helping you begin to get your arms around the technologies, benefits and possibilities. As always, I urge you to think about how you can leverage the technology in new ways to improve your business, your life and create customer happiness. My greatest hope is that this post will provide you with ideas.
In UltimateBusinessContinuity.com I will demonstrate how robotics are being used in specific verticals such as people movement, commercial delivery and logistics, the smart home, helping disabled people, entertainment, life-and-death crisis scenarios and security. I will include personal successes, specific devices and companies that are on the forefront of robotics.
Robots can be found in thousands of shapes and sizes from an R2D2 in Star Wars to a hotel check-in humanoid or a vacuum cleaner doing the work, so you do not have to. The only limitation is your imagination.
They can have wheels, treads, legs or take on other forms such as a snake (great in disasters and emergency response), a dog or a humanoid-like person. They can nimbly travel the halls of an office or school, sit on a desk or provide value on a factory conveyor line. Integrating robots with other types of emerging technologies gives them super powers.
Robots play a central role in the Internet of Things (IOT). Mixing a robot with technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data, computer vision and tactile touch sensors exponentially further increases their abilities. Intelligent robots are rapidly assuming more ambitious roles such as partnering with doctors to perform surgeries and as companions and aids to elderly people that live alone.
Fun Fact: The first robotic surgery was performed using the Puma 560, a robot used in 1985 by Kwoh et alto to perform neurosurgical biopsies with greater precision.
In another post on UltimateBusinessContinuity.com I spoke of the Maker / Do It Yourself (DIY) movement that is sweeping the world. Makers and school robotics teams are building sophisticated and useful robots from off-the-shelf parts, discarded toys and byproducts of industry. As I have mentioned before, Maker meetings are a fantastic way to learn about technology, increase career skills, build friendships and have fun.
I have attended numerous STEM, high school and collegiate robotic competitions and demonstrations. The high level of functionality of the robots is impressive. These are the future leaders of the robotics industry. If you have a local competition I urge you to attend or sponsor the event.
Industrial robots are often comprised of an arm that completes a repetitious task in a factory or warehouse.
Perhaps, welding a part or fastening screws and bolts. They never get tired, need coffee or a vacation day.
Mobile industrial robots can traverse warehouses and factories delivering parts and picking and packing even the heaviest products. If they get hurt or break down it is far less of a concern than a person getting hurt. Safety first! Simply replace the part and robots are ready to get back to work.
Amazon uses a fleet of 100,000+ small orange robots originally developed by Kiva in their warehouses. The micro- bots automatically pick packages and bring them back to people that pack them in boxes. This saves a great deal of time and money. It also reduces errors. Amazon quickly realized return on investment from the little orange robots and how bright the future is for robotics, so they bought Kiva for $775 million.
Imagine how you can improve security and safety in your organization by doubling or tripling your ability to view threats without adding to your employee roster. Robots can be programmed to patrol hallways, offices, warehouses and factories. They will work 24x7x365 and never complain.
Security robots armed with cameras and mix-and- match sensors take situational awareness to a very high level. One or many mobilized robots can stream video, pictures and many types of important metrics such as heat and tremors to a central command center anywhere in the world. They can intelligently climb over and go around objects in their path.
Soft snake robots with cameras can slither into pipes, drains and crevices too small for people and larger robots. This can be critical during a crisis event. Nature lends a hand in providing innovative ideas for designers creating all sorts of new products.
Use cases for these security / crisis management robots include break-ins, active shooters, bomb threats, earthquakes, tornadoes and many more disruptive events. People safety is always our number one concern and anything we can do to protect them is worth the effort. Security robots are often military grade, tough and durable. They can take a pounding and happily do their jobs. Prices for security and industrial robots are decreasing dramatically.
All the digital security benefits I described above can be monetized. When you are safe and resilient it increases
your ability to fend off threats and increases the continuity of your business. This is a differentiator when compared to less secure organizations. It should be incorporated as part of your pitch to prospects. It can generate additional revenue.
Historically, large industrial robots were isolated from humans. More recently, collaborative robots are being developed that can work side-by-side with humans in industrial and office settings.
For example, in 2012 Rethink Robotics (www.rethinkrobotics.com) released Baxter, which allows people to work side-by-side with robots. Baxter is powered by simple to use Intera software. It can be programmed by the robot owner instead of by expensive robotic experts. Baxter uses computer vision to accomplish complex or simple tasks. Baxter is smart. Training him is easy and fast. Baxter even has a friendly smiling face and never gets upset. On the Rethink web site, you can meet Baxter’s friends that do many valuable things including Sawyer and the ‘gripping’ Clicksmart family.
Office robots can be a physical extension of an employee working from home or half-way around the world. For example, Double Robotics (www.doublerobotics.com) has a line of telepresence robots that enable you to participate in the office or classroom school physically being there. It takes virtual work to a much higher and more interactive level.
These telepresence robots include video screens and cameras. It feels as though you are in the room with people located anywhere in the world. You can even participate in meetings, classes and coffee breaks through your robotic telepresence. There are some interesting case studies of companies, such as LinkedIn, that effectively use telepresence robots.
Office robots can be lifelike with realistic faces and synthetic skin. They can scoot down the hall to deliver mail or clean the trash.
Robots can work 24×7 and will not complain if they do not get holidays off. This can be advantageous as the United States starts on-shoring work and jobs that were previously off-shored. Automation using robotics will increase revenue and productivity and reduce costs. No matter how little
people are unfairly paid overseas, machines can do it cheaper, faster and better.
Robots in the home can be saviors to the elderly, disabled or anyone who needs help. For the elderly, a smart home may be an alternative to living in a nursing home. We will discuss that value as well as other home IoT devices in the post, ‘Smart Home and Why It Matters’.
Home robots can also help us in smaller ways. They can bring us drinks and snacks while we are watching TV. Imagine asking your robot to get you a soda or a beer.
I use a robotic dog feeder when I go away for the day. Anyone that owns a dog can relate to the feeder as freedom. Suitcase are now smart. ForwardX CX-1 (Forwardx.com) is a self-driving suitcase that was demonstrated at the 2018 Computer Electronics Show (CES). Wheels on a suitcase used to be cool but a self- driving suitcase is super cool! It will follow you at an airport, train station or anywhere else. It uses computer vision and RF technology to auto-follow. Amazingly, it has 4-wheel drive, which is better than my car! It makes use of Internet of Things (IOT) sensors to avoid obstacles. It comes with a
battery that you can also use to charge your devices.
Recently, my son bought a robotic Segway miniPRO (http://www.segwayminipro.com/), which is moderately priced, especially for the functionality it delivers. Segway calls it ‘The Hands-Free, Self-Balancing Personal Transporter’. I am not endorsing it or suggesting you go out and buy one unless you do your due diligence.
It has a base that is mobile and stands upright using gyroscopes. It does not need a handle for balance. Compared to a standard Segway that you might see security guards riding in malls, the miniPRO is smaller, lighter and easier to use.
It can also be controlled with an app without physically being on the device. Hmmm, I took one look at it and thought, this can be modified to be a pretty cool business robot. I checked the Segway site and sure enough there is a tricked-out version being sold as a robot. I can see some innovative entrepreneurs customizing it for specific niche markets and selling it at a premium.
My son and I recently hit the streets. He rode the Segway miniPRO and I went on a training run for an upcoming race. He attached his mobile phone to the Segway and filmed me from 360 degree angles. I had never watched myself run, except for brief finish line videos at the end of races. The video was transforming and enabled me to make immediate improvements to my technique which resulted in a personal best time in my next 5k!
iRobot (http://www.irobot.com/) is famous for the Roomba, which has made life easier for millions of us while keeping our floors clean. They are a world leader in robots and besides the Roomba, they make robotic mops, pool cleaners and military robots. They are an innovative organization committed to invention, discovery and applying technology for practical uses.
Google purchased Boston Dynamics
(https://www.bostondynamics.com/) which vaulted them to a robotic leadership position. In addition, through their Waymo technology they are leading the race to a truly autonomous car.
Ozobot (https://ozobot.com) makes pocket size robots that teach people about programming robots in an interactive manner. They are popular with educators and in STEM programs. I feel these small robots are valuable to anyone that wants to learn and increase their skills by digitally playing.
Ozobot is the type of gift I suggest you consider buying for young people. Learning about tech, programming and robotics with a tool like this can be the spark that creates a love for technology, innovation and possibly a very rewarding career.
A drone is a robotic unmanned aerial or underwater vehicle. Drones come in all sizes from less than an inch to the size of a full-scale plane. They derive intelligence using AI, cameras, sensors and even virtual reality!
Drones will create more than 100,000 jobs and at least
$482 million in tax revenue for the United States by 2025. For the drone industry to prosper, safety must be a top concern and regulations protecting people and property must be considered. Congressional hearings in the United States have already occurred on these issues.
Drones are becoming a key tool for security and safety. I recently met with a startup company that automates the flight path of security drones. No human ground piloting is required. The drones are programmed through a friendly interface to fly predefined routes.
A fleet of such drones can survey multiple locations simultaneously anywhere in the world and send video streams that are consolidated in a central command center console. For example, multi-national organizations can have drones in Israel, India and Indiana fly routes that stream valuable real-time images and other data to their emergency command center in Idaho or Iceland.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that, as with any tool or technology, some people will look for nefarious ways to use drones. Drones have already been used for terror related events and this will increase. Drone delivery can mean delivering packages you buy or bombs. Large drones can carry heavy payloads and drones are much easier to purchase than getting a pilot’s license.
Agencies such as Homeland Security must have these types of threats on their radar. There are already devices that can automatically bring down drones that fly in a secure area, but in many cases these devices cannot be used, as it would constitute air piracy or breaking other regulations.
Returning to the many benefits of drones, they are already delivering medicine and other critical supplies to areas impacted by natural events, such as earthquakes or tornadoes.
Drones can be used for border control and to monitor large sporting and entertainment events. Consideration for privacy will be an area of concern that must be resolved.
Imagine the value in autonomously surveying thousands of miles of oil and gas pipelines to thwart threats or mesh drone data with artificial intelligence to predict maintenance opportunities before a breakdown.
Off-the-shelf commercial drones costing from $99 to
$2,995 can provide great value for the right organizations. These drones typically include cameras and even virtual reality interfaces so you are seemingly in the pilot seat. You could even hack these drones to add additional sensors for custom capabilities that can benefit your organization or customers.
Hubsan (http://www.hubsan.com/na/) is a leader in cost effective drones (many under $200) with an impressive array of features including app compatibility, cameras, GPS, flip- and-roll, automatic take-off and automatic return home.
BFD Systems (https://www.bfdsystems.com) works with businesses on some serious custom drones. These include agriculture, security and delivery type drones. They have many pictures and cool stories on their web site.
CyPhy Works (https://www.cyphyworks.com) has an interesting niche as a leader in tethered persistent drones that are attached to a wire. They cater to industries such as defense, public safety & security, oil & gas, telecommunications, mining & construction and the media. You might think, as I did, that being tethered has disadvantages but it enables their PARC drones to fly for hours instead of minutes and provides a great deal of value in many ways.
For example, for the second year in 2018, CyPhy Works provided persistent aerial views of the Boston Marathon (there is a video on their web site). The cold weather, rain and winds made it difficult for racers, law enforcement, and marathon officials. The conditions kept most air assets grounded but CyPhy drones flew for hours. Their live stream video into the Emergency Operations Centers (EOC) provided hundreds of local, state, and federal
agencies with the ability to detect, assess, and respond to activity along the route.
Their solutions are portable, weatherized, and can be deployed quickly, making it ideal for 24/7 surveillance and situational awareness. This is vital for marathons, outdoor concerts, sporting events and any large gathering for safety and security. I even had an idea for a tethered drone to monitor local traffic patterns, in cases where it is not cost effective or practical to use helicopters.
Drones are transforming farming. Harper Adams University in the United Kingdom attempted a project called Hands Free Hectare in 2017
(http://www.handsfreehectare.com), which aimed to be the first in the world to plant, tend and harvest a crop with only autonomous vehicles and drones. It ended with a successful harvest. No humans were used in the process. In 2018 they are attempting to improve on the first harvest with more precision, while harvesting a hectare (2.471 acres) of wheat.
In autonomous precision farming, small driver-less tractors plant crops and drones integrated with cameras and sensors to pinpoint land that needs water or seed as well as crops that are ready to be harvested. Robotic pickers can automatically test for ripeness and pick fruits and vegetables at the optimal time. Precision farming replaces the shotgun approach where water and other liquids were sprayed even where they were not required. Using a series of smaller than the old way tractors, saves money, creates resilience and is more sustainable. This smart new precision approach replaces waste, lowers expenses and generates revenue. It is another case of emerging technology and automation doing it faster, better and cheaper.
Commercial drone deliveries are here and will be more common soon. Where it adds value, they will partner with autonomous trucks to provide door-to-door autonomous deliveries. In the ‘Smart Supply Chain’ post I describe how companies such as Amazon are already beginning to make this a reality.
Drones can also entertain us. Hopefully, you were fortunately to watch the illuminated drone swarms that stole the show during the 2018 South Korea Winter Olympics opening ceremony.
Drone racing is becoming a popular sport. I can see why as I always appreciated watching radio controlled (RC) airplanes and even owned some simple ones. Watching drones in flight is very cool for spectators. For the pilots using augmented reality to virtually put them in the pilot seat it must be amazing as their drones go through gate-type obstacles at high speeds. In New South Wales, Australia and Las Vegas, NV there are indoor drone arenas. Many more outdoor and indoor races will be popping up.
I used a large drone to film a video for a corporate business program kickoff meeting. The film wowed 40 executive attendees as it flew over our locations revealing some amazing overhead views. I received many questions on how they could use drones for marketing and sales.
I have fun tiny lightweight drones through my house for fun. I have a 19-foot ceiling in my living room which is lousy when it comes to changing the smoke alarm, but is very cool for indoor drone flights. I am also researching follow-me- drones that can accompany me on my training runs and perhaps during 5k races. I think other runners would love to see aerial views. Perhaps there is a side-business there? For a company already organizing races this can be an additional revenue stream. I already pay to get a high-quality finish line picture in races and would pay a lot more for an in- race follow-me video.
NASA, a leader in drone development, selected three aeronautic teams to explore ambitious drone ideas. “Our idea is to invest a very modest amount of time and money into new technologies that are ambitious and potentially transformative,” said Richard Barhydt, NASA’s acting director of the Transformative Aeronautics Concepts Program (TACP). “They may or may not work, but we won’t know unless we try.”
The studies will explore whether and how it might be possible to:
- Build a path toward safe inclusion and certification of autonomous systems in aviation. Autonomous systems, such as self-driving cars and future UAS, rely on learning algorithms that adapt to new goals and environments. The idea
is to develop autonomy-enabling algorithms that lay a foundation for establishing justifiable confidence in machine decisions and, ultimately, lead to certification of autonomous systems.
- Develop new methods and technologies for a remotely-piloted drone to make sure it’s “fit to fly” before every single flight. The idea is to verify the aircraft is structurally and mechanically sound, and that all its onboard systems have not been damaged or hacked in some way. If it’s not sound, the aircraft will ground itself.
- Use quantum computing and communication technology to build a secure and jam-free network capable of accommodating hundreds of thousands of drones flying each day. Because of the way data is organized and processed, quantum computing enables certain computations and communications to be done much more efficiently than a regular computer. For example, quantum computers may be able to solve certain problems in a few days that would take millions of years on the average computer.
Drones are not limited to the sky. iBubble (https://ibubble.camera/) makes sleek looking underwater diving follow-me drones that their site mentions will begin shipping in late 2018. These are intended for scuba divers, free divers, professionals, hotel resorts and anyone that can creatively think about using underwater drones. They are not intended for the backyard above ground pool. I like the niche they are carving. There are endless uses for these devices.
Now is the time to start thinking about how you can incorporate robots and drones for your business or personal enjoyment. We are only scratching the surface of possibilities for these technologies.