Avi Barkay, executive vice president and general manager for North America with Caja Robotics, offers a vision of robotics technology over the next five years.
In the future of the robotics industry, Barkay envisions the “commoditization of hardware.” In keeping with the development trend of technology in other industries, he says, “Ultimately, software prevails.”
The rising importance of robotics software will be accelerated by artificial intelligence and machine learning, which will make robotics more flexible and adaptable to the changing needs of distribution facilities. Expect to see an emphasis on interoperability of systems, with some consolidation among vendors. “The big customers that purchase robotics solutions will want to see them working in unison,” Barkay says.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that the big enterprise software vendors will dominate. “There may be some intermediaries trying to consolidate some components,” Barkay says. “I’m not sure that there will be one big enterprise solution to rule them all.” What’s more likely, he adds, is that private organizations will create standardized protocols that allow for the integration of multiple systems from vendors large and small.
Barkay further predicts that investment in robotics will slow in the short term. That trend is in keeping with Gartner’s “Hype Cycle” for emerging technologies, in which initial excitement over new systems is typically followed by a dip in adoption, before they become omnipresent in targeted operations.
Flexibility is the key to success of future robotics systems, Barkay says. The fast-changing nature of distribution today dictates that warehouse operations be able to scale in accordance with customer demand, and adopt the necessary technology tools for achieving that capability.
Barkay recommends that companies looking to acquire robotics first determine their objectives. What’s certain, he adds, is that the need for innovative robotics technology won’t go away, even if the current labor shortage abates.
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