How Well Did Our 2016 Robots and Markets Predictions Do?

In the News
December 28, 2016

Back in January, I made five 2016 robots predictions. How accurate were they?

From industrial automation and artificial intelligence to household robots, I expected that technology would advance and adoption would continue in multiple industries — nothing too dramatic.

Sure, the controversy around self-driving cars has continued, and automation is changing the entire supply chain, from manufacturing and warehousing to e-commerce fulfillment and last-mile deliveries. But what about consumer robots and AI stealing jobs?

Let’s take a look at whether my crystal ball worked.

1. Productivity will continue to benefit from industrial automation.

OK, this was a pretty safe prediction.

China has surpassed Japan in being the world’s largest purchaser and operator of industrial robots, according to the International Federation of Robotics. Since it is starting with a lower-than-average robot density, the nation has a ways to go to catch up with other countries.

To that end, robotics purchases by Chinese businesses are expected to more than double by 2018, and Chinese investors are aggressively looking for foreign partners.

Productivity might be good for a manufacturer’s bottom line, but it can also hurt workers’ wallets, especially since China is more willing than other countries to endure job displacements from automation. As many as 60,000 people were reportedly replaced by robots at Samsung supplier Foxconn.

On the collaborative robot side, increasing adoption has lifted the fortunes of suppliers such as Universal Robots, according to Goldman Sachs.

2. Robots on land, in the air, and on (and under) the seas will be more autonomous.

Manufacturing and logistics continued to be the biggest adopters of robots in 2016, and several vendors have been rolling new automated guided vehicles (AGVs) into factories and warehouses, including Seegrid, Clearpath Robotics, and Locus Robotics.

In the water, Boeing recently bought Liquid Robotics for an undisclosed amount...

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