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InOrbit 2021: a year in review

By Team InOrbit

This past year saw major changes for InOrbit, and we couldn’t be happier with the results. Through experiment-led development, lots of trial and error, and some great connections with our friends and family in the robotics community (that’s all of you), we’ve made our platform more accessible, and robust for our users.

As 2021 comes to a close we are taking time to look back and reflect, if only for a few minutes on the year that was, and highlight some of our successes.

At a start-up there’s not always time to reflect on growth, but part of our driving philosophy is to make the entire robotics space better for everyone. This goal has seen InOrbit grow over the past year, not only with our partnerships as the message of RobOps gains more and more support but internally as well. We’ve added more than 10 new team members to the InOrbit family and we’re looking for more great talent to join the team.

A fresh look

As 2021 kicked off we put a bit more than a fresh coat of paint on the InOrbit toolset. In January and February InOrbit launched some fantastic new functionality updates.

Embeddable dashboards became a reality, allowing for role-based customization, and integration of InOrbit into robotics projects in ways that we’d never seen before. Through the InOrbit Console, Enterprise users can create dashboards with just the widgets that they need for specific use cases, and then make them available as part of any web application, giving users total control of the InOrbit experience.    

This was made even easier by new support launched for Ubuntu with Python 3+ and ROS LTS Noetic. One of the themes you’ll find in much of our work this year has been around interoperability and accessibility, our goal is to ensure users can take advantage of InOrbit’s RobOps tools whether they are building with a ROS platform or not.

 

To be fair, we did actually start the year with a fresh coat of paint. A redesigned look for InOrbit Control introduced our friendly widgets, with role-based, configurable dashboards that made InOrbit more intuitive and self-revealing.

Mission: InOrbit

Features often start with a specific customer need. As Spring 2021 began we started working on some remarkable features we’re very proud of, but have only currently been released for select InOrbit Enterprise users. These features however round out our capabilities for a holistic solution to the most common issues experienced when trying to orchestrate robots. Missions allow users to string robot tasks together more seamlessly, tracking key performance indicators of a complete assignment from start to finish.

Needless to say, there’s a lot more to this feature. This is just a quick peek. You’ll want to keep your eye on this space as 2022 commences though…

Joining Missions in May, we introduced Time Capsule, a feature available for all InOrbit users that has proven invaluable time and again. Time Capsule efficiently captures, stores, and visualizes the critical information, environment and behavior of a robot over a given period of time. Like a snapshot, it can be used to analyze incidents showing the events immediately before, during and after any given event. See Time Capsule in action here.   

As June and July rolled into full swing, our team concentrated on making the experience for new and active users even better. We made sure that getting your robots InOrbit was seamless, and we refined our documentation to educate users more clearly on what they can accomplish with our toolset. We know approaching operations as robot fleets scale can be frustrating, and we’ve seen lots of robotics manufacturers try to build even modestly functional software solutions over and over again, only to fail. So in an effort to add more transparency and guidance, we developed clear onboarding documentation for new users, exposing some of the proven tools we use for demos to InOrbit Control as a zero-data feature. This means that as soon as you sign up for a free account, you have access to create a simulated cloud robot with zero setup effort to test and learn more effectively how the platform really works.

Lessons learned

As we think more and more broadly about RobOps, we have to start clearly defining how the right tools are essential for robot operations at scale. Perhaps this is best illustrated in an understanding of how failure can lead to growth. But it’s not an easy lesson to learn, and robotics is growing so fast that most players entering the space are brand new to the field. So we started sharing what we’ve learned and are still learning, exploring how RobOps integrates into various emerging sectors of robotics.

We’ve always enjoyed sharing experiences with the community. And taking inspiration from our friends at the Robot Operations Group (ROG) with their ongoing conversations, InOrbit launched an ongoing series of free and on-demand webinars. These were accompanied by expert-driven, insightful whitepapers covering topics ranging from Logistics to AgTech, to Cleaning and more. You can find these and more on our Resource Library page. 

What we learned this year, exploring the evolving state of the industry, and talking with the community is that while strides are being made there’s still a long way to go. Sharing how RobOps are already a cornerstone of what we call Software-Defined X with manufacturers, and educating end-users about what the future of work could look like is only part of the equation. And this realization led us directly to a series of exciting moves around openness and accessibility.

Free at last

Our goal is to be a catalyst for the adoption of smart robots at global scale. To achieve this, we need education and accessible tools. As the summer turned to fall, we partnered with and announced our support for the MassRobotics AMR Interoperability Standard. We’ve always been a robot-agnostic company – our platform and tools work with any robot. Robots based on ROS or ROS-2 are especially easy to configure, but we have activated InOrbit on several non-standard platforms as well. We believe the future of robotics is tied intrinsically to integrated multi-robot systems. Orchestration of these systems requires openness, and emerging standards are a sure sign that our industry is maturing.

Interoperability is only the beginning though. In September we dramatically opened up our platform. All your robots, in the cloud, free - forever. That was our mantra as we launched Free Edition. No strings attached, no trial periods, or credit card required. As InOrbit CEO Florian Pestoni explained, “We’ve seen too many robotics companies waste precious time reinventing the wheel.” Free Edition is our effort to democratize access to tools manufacturers need. It lets engineers get their hands dirty actually using the tool we offer, without having to worry about costs, or deal with bureaucratic red tape. As the year ends, Free Edition is still free, like we said. 

In October,  we were thrilled to finally hit the road again, connecting in person with colleagues and industry friends at the A3 AMR & Logistics conference in Memphis. This conference was significant for several reasons. Whether it was walking the show floor or presenting at panels, we could feel the excitement in the air. The critical message we’ve been sharing about RobOps is taking hold. People are talking. 

This also was the perfect time to give InOrbit users even more. We were proud to launch the InOrbit Developer Portal, a hub for accessible tools and documentation that lets robot developers integrate robot operations effectively into any robot platform. The portal features a centralized toolbox of APIs and SDKs, ready-to-use live code, along with interoperability code, and links to a variety of new open-source initiatives we’ve created and contributed to. InOrbit CTO Julian Cerruti explained why we decided to open our infrastructure simply as a desire to make engineers’ lives better. 

Dev Portal 2

Speaking of tools, specifically the debut InOrbit REST APIs, let developers integrate robot functionality in custom applications and business workflows. These APIs leverage InOrbit’s infrastructure to let robot makers query online and historical robot data, execute remote actions, organize robots in collections, track ongoing and past mission status, inspect audit logs and much more.

The Developer Portal and all of the tools found within are built by developers for developers. We want robot makers to leverage it to accelerate their robot creations. In the end that serves us, and our community. It’s no wonder this initiative was recently nominated for a 2022 Edison Award. Let’s keep our fingers crossed. Explore the Developer Portal for yourself at https://developer.inorbit.ai/.

Once again though, that’s not all...

Growing #community


The InOrbit Ecosystem is a growing group of like-minded companies with complementary products and services. Together with InOrbit, these companies can offer the best solution to address various specialized needs across sectors. This effort unites partners and experts from across industries with a common vision to promote global automation. We know that each robot and deployment is unique. With the Ecosystem developers and robot operators have easy access to the tools they need to connect their robots to the cloud -- and to everything else, enabling companies to easily integrate with our platform to offer a range of solutions, from IoT sensor data to spatial intelligence, to advanced video, to routing algorithms, and more. With partners like Qualcomm, Meili Robots, Ekumen, 634 AI and more there are solutions for a broad range of applications.

InOrbit RobOps @ Scale

We’re not only building, we’re helping drive discussion about the future of robotics. Whether it’s in panels at webinars, on podcasts, on our blog, on social media here and here, or in articles online, we are engaging and stirring discussion

Thank you for being a part of our journey. InOrbit has had a heck of a year in 2021, and we know that with your help, 2022 will be even better. 🚀