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RobOpsCon in review

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John Simmons

John Simmons is the Head of Product at InOrbit. He is an accomplished Operations and Product leader with extensive experience deploying and managing technology at scale. John leads the advancement of the InOrbit platform leveraging his experience with autonomous mobile robots. Truly passionate about improving the lives of people through the application of emerging tech, John recently represented InOrbit at the inaugural RobOpsCon event this November in Santa Cruz. Today he shares his experiences at this community-driven conference, reflecting on how far we’ve come and the work to still be done.


This week I had the pleasure of joining with thought leaders from a range of industries at RobOpsCon 2022. We discussed the importance of RobOps, or robot operations, at the first ever conference specifically focused on the topic. While there are many, many conferences, trade shows, meetups, and other gatherings that discuss robotics, never before has a group assembled specifically for the purpose of sharing ideas, strategies, and lessons learned around deploying robotics solutions at scale.  

Robotics have been around for some time now. The first industrial robots were deployed into manufacturing industries, especially automotive, over 50 years ago. While these robots were certainly critical to the advancement of the manufacturing world, driving huge gains in efficiency and reductions in cost, they were also limited to performing very specific tasks while being entirely isolated from humans. Until the past 10 years, the state of robotics didn’t really change much from this initial configuration.  

More recently though, the world of robotics has changed in some dramatic ways. Robots are no longer fixed machines behind a cage, but autonomous vehicles that operate in and around humans in a vast variety of ways. They move products through warehouses, clean floors, deliver towels in hotels and vital medicines in hospitals. Robots scan retail shelves to identify out of stock products, map walls and utilities in construction sites, and bring us food in restaurants.  In this new world of robots interacting in unstructured environments shared with human coworkers, customers, or simply just as a part of the crowd, there are many new challenges that we must address.  

For much of the past 5 years, advancing autonomous robotics to the point that they can achieve success in these various industries has been the industry’s primary focus. Developing the algorithms and machine learning models that are necessary to operate robots in dynamic, shared spaces was a huge technical challenge. Today these challenges have largely been solved, as evidenced by the explosion in robotics applications in recent years. Now we must turn our attention to deploying these solutions at scale, with hundreds and thousands of robots, working alongside humans and other robots. Solving these challenges is at the heart of RobOps.  

It is clear that robotics will play an ever increasing role in our lives in the future. Whether automating dull, dirty, and dangerous tasks or helping us overcome labor shortages, robots are here to stay.  As the technologies to solve these problems mature, it is imperative that we focus on the ability to deploy these technologies broadly and quickly to capture the opportunities for improvement in our lives, economies, and climate. Costs must come down, performance must improve, and deployments at scale must become commonplace rather than the exception. In order to get there, it will take all of us working together, sharing our ideas and lessons learned, challenging one another, and celebrating our victories. RobOpsCon 2022 was a wonderful first step in this direction. I am thrilled to have been a part of such a gathering and look forward to working with this great community as we drive the robotics industry forward.  

John Simmons takes the stage at RobOpsCon 2022 to explore the challenges of getting robot fleets to scale.

Our heartfelt thanks go out to the Robot Operations Group’s conference organizers for putting on such a fantastic show. We look forward to the next one. Please join the ROG for a free monthly meetup to engage more with a growing group of like minded robotics enthusiasts and experts. Right here. For anyone interested in seeing the RobOpsCon presentations in full for themselves, they have now been made available on the ROG website.  

InOrbit is a proud founding sponsor of the ROG. Please enjoy the photos from the event.

02 tent

(L - R): Joe Wieciek, Rory Gagon, John Simmons, Daniel Theobald, Felipe Garcia Lopez, Erin Rapacki, Florian Pestoni

01 - Florian and Joe

Event organizers Florian Pestoni and Joe Wieciek

02 - kicking things off

Kicking things off


InOrbit, a founding sponsor of RobOpsCon

ALT 03

Erin Rapacki explores "Using Simulation for the Scaling of Robotics Systems"

03 - wrapt attention

Rapt attention

04 - Romaric

Rory Gagon takes the audience " Beyond Simulation"

07 - Vecna

Daniel Theobald explains "Why interoperability is critical to the warehouse of the future"


05 - lunch

lunchtime with Erin Rapacki, David Pepper, Jeff Linnell, and Mike Oitzman

ALT 12

Felipe Garcia Lopez explores "Robot Operations and Scaling Floor Care Robots"

06 - chating

Aldus von der Burg and Felipe Garcia Lopez chat

08 - community 02

Chris McNelis and Bernardo Ospina review the day

08 - community 01

Julien Negre, Rory Gagon, and Rich Rafey discuss RobOps