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The Future of Enterprise Robotics

Examples of robots and the use of robotics in business are all around us today. Their success in manufacturing and in assisting humans in critical missions has already been demonstrated as economically viable and this means their use will only grow. This special report seeks to provide insights that will inform your business strategy and answer the key question of how these robots will impact your business in the coming years.

History of Robotics:

Humankind has long dreamed of robotic assistants. It must be in our nature, since early Greek myths included robotic servants and gods like Talos. Later science fiction fueled our modern imagination. More recently, the needs for safe and economical/competitive production on factory floors kicked off real-world robotic innovation. Now, thanks to advances in artificial intelligence and sensor technologies and a dropping in production price, robots are being used in a wide range of missions. The coming age of ubiguitous high speed comms (including WiFi6, 5G and SpaceBased highspeed comms) is also driving more innovation in robotics.

What Is a Robot?

Operating along a spectrum of human controlled to semi-autonomous to totally independent, robots are already operating in our world. They save lives in hospitals, are taking the place of humans in dangerous jobs, improve our oil exploration and farming, endure the hazards of outer space and now fight our wars. Soon they will make driving safe.

Robots in the Enterprise

Robots are already here, of course. Some enterprises have more than others, but they are here. As one measure of robotics in the enterprise: A recent PWC survey and assessment indicated that on average the proportion of automation will be roughly 20 percent by the late 2020s and 30 percent by the mid-2030s.

Enterprise robots can be thought of as one of three kinds, industrial robots, service robots, or drones. Industrial robots work in factories or other places that use the robots to build things. Service robots stand in for humans. Most consider software agents like Robotic Process Automation to be in this category of Robots. Drones include unmanned aerial vehicles, unmanned undersea vehicles and unmanned ground vehicles. The flying camera drone you may have at home is a type of robot.

For executives, prepare to lead hybrid workforces that have people and robots. This will require empathy and understanding with humans and data driven tech savvy to lead the robots.

A snapshot of the trend right now indicates:

  • Robotic and AI technologies are growing more affordable, more capable and easier to use.
  • Like AI, Robotics hold great potential to displace large portions of the global workforce. Dec 2016 White House Report makes it clear that these benefits will cause disruption in the workforce. Workers who do not have skills to compete in an AI and Robotic future will suffer.
  • Robotic factories are already causing a large shift of manufacturing back from China to the US and we expect that trend to continue (but the bad news is that new robotic plants employ far fewer people).
  • Investments in robotic manufacturing will continue with manufacturing growing but employment not. Manufacturing will also begin to shift out of factories and into many other types of business enterprises. Imagine a near future where things are manufactured within miles of where they are sold/used.
  • By 2019, 35 percent of non-manufacturing businesses in several sectors will be using robotics to automate other aspects of their operations. Those sectors will include logistics, health, utilities and resources, according to IDC.
  • Among IDC’s other top 10 robotics predictions are: 1) growing use of a “robot-as-a-service” business model; 2) more enterprises with chief robotics officers; 3) an increasingly competitive robotic vendor marketplace; 4) growing demand for employees with robotics-related skills; 5) increased robotics regulations for safety, security and privacy; 6) more cloud-based robotic software; 7) development of smarter, faster and more “collaborative” robots; 8) a rise in commercial robots that are connected to an intelligent mesh network; and 9) greater use of robots in e-commerce-related warehouses and deliveries.
  • Robotic vehicles are coming, faster than many realize. Estimates are that robotic drivers will displace more jobs than any other category in the workforce.
  • More than 60% of surveyed Americans say they are somewhat or very positive about autonomous cars. But safety is still a concern. Currently 63% of consumers say they won’t feel safe in a fully-automated vehicle. We believe those numbers will shift in the favor of automation with time.

Cybersecurity and Robotics:

The threat dynamics around the trend towards internet connected robotics center around protecting the robots from unauthorized access. With the many use cases for robotics, the danger of this access is terribly varied. It may be time to propose a 5th law of robotics: No robot will have an unauthorized controller.

Open questions decision-makers should track include:
· Will job displacement due to robotics lead to another job crisis?
· How hard will it be to deceive robots? Will that make hacking even easier?
· What is the role of behavioral analytics in detecting normalcy in robots?

The Impact of Robotics on Due Diligence:
The trends around Robotics are increasingly important element of corporate Due Diligence since it is disruptive business models.

  • On the sell side: Firms should ensure their use of automation including robotics is done securely and that mitigation strategies are in place for issues. Doing this before sale can make a big difference in how well a firm will be valued.
  • On the buy side: Buyers should pay particular attention to the deployment of automation to ensure a well thought out architecture that mitigates risks.

Strategically, the evaluation of firms is an art requiring assessment of how unique the capability is and how much in demand it will be in the market. We provide due diligence consulting via our consulting arm, OODA LLC.

Additional insights to inform your business strategy in an age of digital transformation can be found on our OODA Network Resources site. We track the megatrends of enterprise IT and assess the near future of tech with a goal of informing decisions you need to make today. The series include reporting on:

The series continues, stay tuned for more. And reach out if you have any guidance for us on tech trends you would like to see examined in more detail.

Bob Gourley

Bob Gourley

Bob Gourley is the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of OODA LLC, the technology research and advisory firm with a focus on artificial intelligence and cybersecurity which publishes OODALoop.com. Bob is the co-host of the popular podcast The OODAcast. Bob has been an advisor to dozens of successful high tech startups and has conducted enterprise cybersecurity assessments for businesses in multiple sectors of the economy. He was a career Naval Intelligence Officer and is the former CTO of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Find Bob on Defcon.Social