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In the Zone

Research roundup: cloud robotics, smart-home devices, how we work now

Peter Krass's picture

by Peter Krass on 07/09/2020
Blog Category: advanced-technologies

Mobile robots are coming, and they’ll need the cloud. Smart-home device shipments are poised for growth. And 7 in 10 people are now working from home full-time.

That’s some of the latest research and survey results. And here’s your tech provider’s roundup:

Cloud robotics

Cloud computing will be the great enabler of mobile robotics, ABI Research says.

Mobile robots are a new thing. Previously, most industrial robots were wired or tethered to a single spot. While these robots can be moved around by people, once they’re in place, they can’t move themselves.

Now that’s changing. ABI says the next generation of robots will be increasingly mobile. They’ll communicate over cellular and Wi-Fi connections. They’ll use AI and machine learning. And they’ll need a lot of data.

So much data, in fact, that only the cloud will do. Already, several cloud service providers — including usual suspects AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud — have begun to collaborate with developers of mobile robotics. These companies include InOrbit, Universal Robots and Fetch Robotics.

Naturally, this new development has its own acronym: RaaS, short for Robotics as a Service. ABI predicts that the combination of RaaS and related SaaS sales should grow from $3.3 billion last year to nearly $158 billion by 2030.

Smart home devices

You might think the pandemic lockdown would be good for sales of smart-home devices. You’d be only partially correct.

Market watcher IDC took a look at European smart-home device shipments for this year’s first quarter. IDC found that while some devices sold well, others did not.

Overall shipments for the sector grew by less than 4% year-on-year, IDC found. In this year’s first quarter, shipments reached 22,080 units. That was up from the year-earlier quarter’s total of 21,268 units.

Some of the strongest product categories in this year’s Q1 were digital media adapters, smart speakers and smart displays. One of the weakest was smart TVs; European shipments of these devices declined by 0.3% year-on-year, IDC says, due mainly to supply issues.

Looking ahead, IDC sees a big uptick for smart-home device sales in Europe. It’s predicting that unit shipments will enjoy a compound average growth rate (CAGR) of about 16% through 2024. It also expects the fastest-growing sectors to be smart lighting, home monitoring and security, and smart thermostats.

How we’re working now

If you’re wondering how much the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we work, the short answer is “a lot.”

A more detailed answer comes from the American Management Association. It just released the results of a survey that reached more than 500 of its members.

The survey closed on April 30. With so much changing so quickly, you might want to take the findings with that proverbial grain of salt. Nonetheless, they’re pretty compelling:

> WFH: Nearly 7 in 10 respondents (69%) said they’re working from home. Nearly 1 in 5 (19%) said they’re sometimes working from home, sometimes in the office. Only 7% said they’re working in the office all the time.

> Conferencing tech: Over half (54%) use Zoom; exactly half (50%) use Microsoft Teams; and nearly a third (32%) use Skype. That’s more than 100% because multiple replies were permitted.

> WFH readiness: Nearly 6 in 10 respondents (58%) said they were adequately prepared to work remotely. About 1 in 5 respondents (22%) said working from home is a challenge. And nearly half (46%) said WFH is hurting their productivity and ability to get work done.

> Staffing changes: Nearly half the respondents (48%) said their organizations have instituted hiring freezes. About 1 in 5 (21%) organizations have laid off employees. The same percentage have reduced employees’ work hours. And 14% have cut salaries and other forms of pay.


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