Despite a litany of forces working against them, American consumers spent a record amount of money during the 2021 holiday season. Shaking off supply chain woes, inflation concerns and a surge in Covid cases like a Taylor Swift song, consumers not only returned to physical stores but continued to shop online for their holiday gifts.
Last year I participated in the A3 conference on Autonomous Mobile Robots & Logistics, in Memphis. The location was no coincidence: Memphis is the global headquarters for FedEx, one of the largest logistics companies, with operations around the world. A highlight for me was being on stage with luminaries in the robotics space, including FedEx’s Aaron Prather.
It’s the start of a new year, and it’s customary to look at the year ahead. In addition, February 1st will mark the start of The Year of the Tiger in the Lunar calendar.
Over here at InOrbit, we believe that it will also be The Year of the Robot. As companies across industries become more comfortable with the use of autonomous robots to augment their workforce, growth in robotics deployments is accelerating.
As the days of 2021 come to a close, we quickly anticipate the new year and all of our exciting new projects atInOrbit. But before we flip the calendar, let’s take a look at the trends we predicted back in January to see how we did. Was our crystal ball clear or cloudy?
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.
The value of early feedback in any product development – including software – is, well, invaluable.
Software development has evolved over the last 20 years to allow for more incremental or iterative development, to help eliminate the problems of delivering a product that a customer doesn’t want. We all know software engineers who have suffered from spending monumental time and effort on creating something that ends up being the wrong product, tool or app.
In our experience, robot manufacturers orchestrate specific robot tasks either with internally developed software that mostly works, or a hacked version of something off the shelf that sort of achieves their goals. In reality, “mostly working” and “sort of” does not cut it when it comes time to grow a robot fleet. Many software solutions that attempt these tasks are often opaque and keep developers in the dark, limiting the necessary customization around unique robot deployments.
From the ground up, the InOrbit platform is designed to let users orchestrate and monitor their robots. The data platform is built to report, control as needed and manage a robot fleet to facilitate autonomy.
Individual instruments in the hands of a professional musician can sound wonderful, but when many different instruments come together in an orchestra or band the result can be awe-inspiring and magical.
We think the same thing can be said about robots and robot operations (RobOps). Individually, a single robot can perform some pretty amazing tasks to help human co-workers with their jobs. But when you add several robots and then add different types of robots to the system performing different tasks, the end result can be an amazing workflow that exponentially scales efficiency for a company.
Next week will mark the unofficial start of the holiday season for many online shoppers, whether this means you’ll be skipping out after Thanksgiving dinner to look for deals, hopping on your laptop on Black Friday to avoid the long lines at physical stores, or taking advantage of your high-speed connection at the office (for those that still work in offices) on Cyber Monday.
With the continuing surge in online orders expected this year, a big question will be how many packages will be delivered through robots, drones or self-driving vehicles over that “last mile”, where a package leaves a sortation center to get to a customer’s house.
With all the talk about the metaverse, the 2000 cyberpunk novel Snow Crash that popularized the concept has been in the news. Reality has also been catching up with other key ideas proposed by its author, Neal Stephenson.
The book paints the picture of a near-future where the pizza business had been taken over by technology-heavy corporations, including a totally legit CosaNostra Pizza, Inc. Deliverators are a sort of katana-wielding DoorDash driver on steroids, driving souped up, battery-powered cars. “Your pie in 30 minutes or it’s free” is the promise, prompting customers to want to lie about when they placed their order.