Photo: Melanie McMullen
IoT developers, manufacturers and solution providers all contributed to what was a banner year for new smart technology projects. We saw market forecasts for IoT boom into the billions. Boston Consulting Group (BCG) predicts that by 2020, $276 billion will be spent on IoT technologies, products and services. The greatest two sources of revenue growth in the IoT market will be from services and IoT applications. Predictive maintenance, self-optimizing production and automated inventory management are all top use cases driving growth, according to BCG forecasts.
In 2017, we covered hundreds of project rollouts from solution providers, software developers, startups, and hardware and sensor manufacturers. Here’s the first part of a two-part look at a handful of IoT projects and bright ideas that rolled, flew, chopped, poured, lit up and drove (themselves) out into the marketplace.
At Your Service: Robotic Assistants
From the airport to the bar, coffee shop, cruise ship, senior center and commercial kitchen, robots popped up everywhere in 2017. A crew of airport robots went to work to provide customer assistance: Norma, Amelia and Piper at the San Jose International Airport, Pepper at the Oakland International Airport, and Leo at the Geneva Airport. Pepper gives directions and helps visitors with orders at the Pyramid Tap Room. His services resulted in a 17 percent sales increase, according to Pyramid. The San Jose crew provide extra “people” power to answer travelers’ inquiries and concerns during especially busy travel days, and they dance and play games to lighten the mood of travelers. Leo is focused on heavy lifting, as that robot goes to task with automated curbside baggage handling.
Robots also run the house in Las Vegas at the Tipsy Robot, where they mix and pour cocktails and gather data to determine the bar’s fan favorite beverages each day. In San Francisco, robot baristas are also on the job, serving up precision espressos at Café X. The coffee shop is run by a mechanical barista, a Mitsubishi 6-axis industrial robot that can whip out 100 to 120 custom beverage orders per hour.
Beyond the bar, robots took a seat in the kitchen, too, in 2017. Chowbotics debuted Sally, a programmable robot about the size of dorm refrigerator. Using proprietary robotics technology, Sally dispenses and accurately measures 21 different healthy ingredients, including romaine, kale, seared chicken breast, Parmesan, California walnuts, cherry tomatoes and Kalamata olives. She mixes and dispenses while maintaining a precise temperature control. The foodie robot can craft 1,000 unique salads in under 60 seconds.
Photo: Ngee Ann Polytechnic RoboCoach
Besides healthy eating, robots tackled elder care and fitness tasks. Voice-controlled Zenbo functions as a home assistant and monitors seniors for unexpected falls, while RoboCoach developed by Singapore’s Ngee Ann Polytechnic helps keep seniors fit.
Fast and Furious: Autonomous Transportation
Autonomous vehicles are on the fast track for development, and the segment for the cars along with the related IoT technology is promising to be a high growth area. According to BCG, from 2025 to 2035 growth in the autonomous vehicles market will reach between $42 billion and $77 billion.
As fully autonomous automobiles shift closer to the production line, other types of autonomous transport solutions revved up in 2017. We covered automated “coolers” as well as self-driving golf carts and shuttles that rolled out in pilots and short-haul trials on city streets and university campuses.
Small autonomous delivery options were out and about this year and on duty. Domino’s Robotic Unit, an initiative set up to develop robot and drone technologies for delivery, inked a deal with Starship Technologies, the London-based company that operates fleets of autonomous robots designed to deliver goods locally. Starship robots have now hit the sidewalks in multiple US cities, and they are delivering pizzas around Domino’s stores in selected Dutch and German cities.
Photo: Starship Technologies
One of the biggest players in the autonomous shuttle space is the French company NAVYA with its ARMA offering. The ARMA is a 100 percent electric and autonomous transport vehicle. A pilot deployed in Las Vegas using NAVYA’s ARMA allowed people in the Fremont Street entertainment district of downtown to summon a free driverless shuttle ride with the simple push of a button. While the oval-shaped bus did have a human assistant, it had no driver, no steering wheel and no brake pedal. It successfully made its way running right in the thick of regular traffic using electronic curb sensors, GPS and additional technology.
And not to be left out, bike sharing programs that use GPS-connected bikes, mobile apps and automated payment systems also hit the streets. San Mateo, CA-based LimeBike launched a dockless bike share program in multiple cities, while Ford launched its GoBike sharing program with New York City-based Motivate. With its bike share program, Ford is collecting valuable transportation and weather data that will be used in future autonomous transportation projects.
Photo: Ford GoBike
By Land, Air, and Sea: Drones Skyrocket
This year will certainly be remembered as a time when drone technology took off, as drones took on functions from planting new trees in bare forests to evaluating flood damage after destructive hurricane Harvey to providing light show backup acrobatics to Lady Gaga at Super Bowl 51.
One innovative use of drone technology was put into action to save lives. A Swedish company, FlyPulse, built a high-speed autonomous flying machine that can transport AEDs to a home or accident scene and increase the possibility of a passerby or emergency responder being able to shock a victim within three minutes of cardiac arrest.
Drones also became useful farmhands. The Hands Free Hectare (HFHa) project sprung to life this year, as a farm in the United Kingdom became the first in the world to successfully plant, tend and harvest a crop entirely with autonomous vehicles and drones—and without a single person ever setting foot in the field. With the success of the automated harvest, Hands Free Hectare plans to continue its research into development of more IoT farming technology. In the meantime, the team says they plan to celebrate their success in IoT by brewing their own beer—made from their first barley harvest.
Read Part 2 of our bright ideas in IoT in 2017, which includes our reports on smart cities, sizzling solutions in retail IoT, and security and surveillance innovations.