New markets push strong growth in robotics industry

The robotics industry, spurred on by demand in new markets and increasing labor costs, is expected to show strong growth through the rest of the decade, according to analyst firm IDC.

Worldwide spending on robotics, as well as related services, is expected to jump from a $71 billion market in 2015 to $135.4 billion in 2019, IDC said.

"Robotics is one of the core technologies that is enabling significant change in manufacturing through factory-of-the-future initiatives,” said Jing Bing Zhang, a research director at IDC. “While traditionally used in the automotive industry, there is an increasing adoption of robotics in sectors like electronics, retail, healthcare, logistics, agriculture, services, education and government."

He added that broad-based growth in robotic adoption is being driven by increasing labor costs, a shortage of skilled labor, and a growing emphasis on repeatable quality, along with a drop in prices of robotic systems.

Audi, a German automobile manufacturer, has been testing telepresence robots in 68 U.S. dealerships to enable mechanics to more quickly and easily get help on tough repairs.

The test has gone so well that Audi is planning to have telepresence robots – made by Cambridge, Mass.-based Vecna Technologies – in all of its 292 U.S. dealerships by the end of this year.

Audi isn’t the only company using Vecna’s VGo robots. They’re also being used to interact with patients at Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. JetBlue, similarly, is using them for customer service.

Healthcare, according to IDC’s report, is increasingly turning to robotics.

The healthcare industry is only behind manufacturing and the resource industries, such as petro chemicals, aluminum and farming, in global robotics spending.

"Robotics, as a technology, has really reached its tipping point," said John Santagate, an analyst with IDC Manufacturing Insights. "Robotic capabilities continue to expand, while increasing investment in robot development is driving competition and helping to bring down the costs associated with robots."

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