Go Home to Find the Ultimate in Flexible Automation

Automated products are being rolled out for homeowners in niche-specific areas like pet care and children. Initially, vacuums, lawnmowers, and pool cleaners using sensors and the latest software got the attention. Smart temperature settings and lighting solutions spoke to personal preferences.

Then automating a cat’s litter box and adjusting infant and toddler car seats showed that robotic solutions for the home can become quite specific. Companion robots and assistive robots to help the elderly and special needs children are popular as well.

While industrial automation moves into the realm of collaborative robots, flexible automation for home means something different. Families aren’t like companies that have a linear process for creating and packaging products. Individual preferences for lighting, music, and food mean automated systems have to be designed with tremendous flexibility.

Automation that Learns

A home does share common traits with a smart factory that’s tied to the Internet of Things with communication between components. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is used to “learn” and customize automation.

An article in Sciencemag.org, Five surprising ways AI could be a part of our lives by 2030, describes how AI can automate life at home and in the communities.

Pantries can remind homeowners to stock up on food or particular items. Patients can shares their symptoms with a smart computer that would help doctors target a list of possible causes. Stoplights could learn traffic patterns and reduce congestion on the streets. In schools, computer programs and even humanoid robots could learn the strengths and weaknesses of individual students and develop personalized assignments for them.

The structure for this adaptability is in place. Capturing data in real time is happening with the Internet of Industrial Things (IIOT) as noted in the write-up Making the Intelligent Factory Today, an article on the Motion Control and Motor Association website.

Thoughtful design is another principle that robot manufacturers will need to apply. In the article Our Autonomous Future with Service Robots, machines will be functioning where the users will likely have limited knowledge of automation.

Automation that Senses

The write-up on the Robotic Industries Association (RIA) website points out that just like imaging systems are key to help self-driving vehicles move safely, vision-based navigation will apply to many service robots in homes and in larger settings like hospitals. A robot may need to open a door to move from one place to another. But before it can do that, it will have to know what a door is and how to maneuver through it.

This application of AI is leading to another term: the Internet of Robotic Things, as noted in The Business of Automation, Betting on Robots. A robot for home use and service robots aren’t just machines doing repetitive tasks. Instead, they become learning tools to “sense conditions, collect data, and understand it. Then it can feed it to the back-end, so decisions on how to act can be made in real time.”

Businesses invest in robotics to gain a competitive edge, so the cost becomes profitable in the long run. Homeowners have various motives for buying robots. The International Federation of Robotics tracks sales and noted that robots for different tasks are becoming more popular.

Handicap assistance robots made a major leap from 2013 when 699 units were sold to 2014 when 4,416 robots were sold. That’s a 542% increase in one year. Sales in the same time frame were up for entertainment robots and those that do the mundane tasks around the house.

Homeowners as well as business owners are facing and embracing an automated future. The bottom line at home is different than at the factory. The similarity is that homeowners and company executives have the desire to work and live smarter. Flexible automation infused with AI will increasingly be the solution.

There are easy-to-use resources for the latest on robotics, machine vision, and motion control. Learn about memberships and trainings on A3.