Robots x Interconnection = Hot Tech!

Simon Lockington

The Asia-Pacific region is fast becoming renowned as one of the key centers of innovation for the global robotics industry. As you’d expect, robotics – especially humanoid robots – have become some of the most talked-about subjects in technology today. Humanoid robots are no longer the stuff of science fiction but are being utilized by a range of industries across the region – from healthcare and pharmaceuticals, to retail and education.

One of the best examples of growing confidence in the robotics industry can be seen in Japan’s plans for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. To help make onsite mobility and transportation more efficient, the automobile manufacturer Toyota has unveiled five robots that will assist athletes and attendees in myriad ways. And who could forget Sophia the Robot, created by Hong Kong-based firm Hanson Robotics, who has now become world famous for its combination of high-level AI with a humanoid appearance?

In our fourth blog post of the ‘Interconnection x Hot Tech’ series we will examine this exciting and rapidly developing area of technology and why interconnection will be key to the growth of robotics in the coming years.

Posed for Growth, Led by Innovation

It has been projected that the global humanoid robot market is poised for a phenomenal compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 40% by 2024, reaching a valuation of US$5 billion.1

In the Asia-Pacific region, we are also seeing great potential in this market. Over the past few years, we have seen synergy between the growth in robotics, and the development of other technologies, such as blockchain, as well as the anticipated roll-out of 5G, which has stimulated innovation within the region’s robotics markets. One such example is Toyota’s wireless T-HR3 humanoid robot, which was launched in 2017 and is enabled by 5G networks.

Robots for All Industries

Across Asia-Pacific, businesses from a range of industries are waking up to the possibilities that humanoid robots can bring, particularly for operations that involve high levels of repetition or dangerous activities. Here is a snapshot of some of its applications in different sectors:

Healthcare and pharmaceutical

It is estimated that the automation systems market in the region’s healthcare and pharmaceutical industry will grow by 8.6% each year between 2017 and 2025.2 In Singapore, research is underway into smart hospitals designed to cope with the more complex diseases associated with a growing, ageing population. At Changi General Hospital, robots can already move documents, drugs, specimens, and linen, and researchers are looking into ways in which they can move heavier objects, such as beds, and even interact with patients. Meanwhile in Japan, Fuji Machine has developed “Hug”, a medical lifting robot designed to support care workers in nursing homes. By applying robotics, innovation will spread through the industry, which can only have a positive effect on how care is administered, and treatment is delivered.

Retail

The region’s retailers are also seeing the benefits of applying robotics at every stage of the value chain to ensure innovation and sustainable growth. This includes logistics and supply chains, back-office operations, advertising, instore activities, and customer-centric services. According to ABI Research, the region will have over 1 million automated retail units and 4.5 million smart vending machines by 2023.3 In South Korea, shoppers can now look forward to spending time with the first-ever robotic shopping assistant, known as “el Bot”, at Lotte Department Store.

Hospitality

In December last year, Alibaba opened the FlyZoo Hotel in Hangzhou, China. During their stay at the hotel, travelers are served by robots, which can take their orders, help buy groceries, order meals, and collect laundry. And in Singapore, guests at the Park Avenue Rochester Hotel can experience Techi, a 1.38m-tall robot that delivers duvets, pillowcases, and towels to each of the hotel rooms.

Education

The education sector is also benefitting from the rise of robots. In 2017, the global educational robots market was estimated to be worth US$666.4 million dollars, and is expected to grow at a rate of almost 21% between 2018 and 2025.4 In Australia, a three-year research project is underway to examine how humanoid robots can be used to teach and how their presence can help inspire students. In Japan, the country’s education ministry is planning a pilot project costing US$2.36 million (¥250 million) for 2019, which will see more than 500 English-speaking AI robots being used as teaching aids to improve language skills.5

When Robots meet Interconnection

The use of AI and machine learning encourages humanoid robots to behave intelligently, enabling them to collect and learn human behavior, and predict actions. When faced with unpredictable or changing environments, these robots will also learn to adapt. Increasingly, robots are becoming more sophisticated at mimicking human behavior and are doing so more efficiently and quickly than ever before.

While the benefits of robots are clear, the single biggest challenge facing businesses in the adoption of robotics is digital readiness and suitable IT infrastructure. Robots and AI require high volumes of data that can be transferred securely and in real-time, making it crucial for businesses to have the levels of interconnectivity required to make the most of this new and exciting technology.

Any form of distance between different data points can result in significant latency, preventing robots from interacting with users immediately and having an impact on customer experience, particularly for industries like retail and hospitality. With direct and private interconnection businesses can largely eliminate latency when transferring data between users, service providers, data sources, clouds, allowing robots to immediately analyse requests, respond to questions, take actions and interact with users in real-time.

To drive the successful implementation of this new technology, an Interconnection Oriented Architecture™ (IOA™) strategy is critical in helping customers move IT infrastructure closer to their users.

For example, if the robots used at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games are supported by a US-based service provider with deployments in data centers that are globally interconnected with facilities in Japan, this will bring the services closer to users and help reduce network latency. By distributing exchange points, companies can ensure that robots are able to directly connect with different involved parties at the digital edge, to deliver instant, reliable performance regardless of location. In some areas that have data protection restrictions, direct, private data exchange between users would also help increase the level of security and facilitate data analysis.

We are truly excited about the possibilities that robotics are creating for businesses across many industries in Asia-Pacific, but it’s only through interconnection that this can effectively be achieved.

That’s why we are here to help businesses connect, so they can truly achieve the incredible in the years to come, and contribute to making the world a better, safer, more efficient place for all.

 

Reference:

1 – https://www.marketwatch.com/press-release/humanoid-robot-market-in-asia-pacific-is-3predicted-to-grow-in-a-significant-manner-by-2024-2019-05-16

2 – https://atechnologymarket.com/asia-pacific-pharmacy-automation-systems-market-is-flourishing-at-a-healthy-cagr-by-2025-top-well-known-players-abacus-rx-inc-accu-chart-plus-healthcare-systems-inc-aesynt-incorporat/

3 – https://www.abiresearch.com/press/smart-vending-market-surge-asia-pacific-over-one-million-automated-retail-units-be-installed-2023/

4 – https://portnews24.com/educational-robots-market-to-represent-a-significant-expansion-with-massive-cagr-of-20-8-by-2025-fischer-group-lego-makeblock-modular-robotics/119415/

5 – https://www.scmp.com/news/asia/article/2160678/circuits-love-japan-boost-english-schools-ai-robots

To drive the successful implementation of this new technology, an Interconnection Oriented Architecture™ (IOA™) strategy is critical in helping customers move IT infrastructure closer to their users. Simon Lockington, Director of Global Solutions Enablement, Equinix Asia-Pacific
Simon Lockington
Simon Lockington Director of Global Solution Architecture - APAC