The service robotics industry is relatively new, diverse, and picking up steam daily. Service robotics covers every robotic activity except those described as industrial. They are robots that perform useful tasks for humans and are categorized as either personal or professional.
Service robots cross definitional borders. They collaborate safely with humans and they move goods of all types for all types of purposes.Â Mobile robotsÂ fly, swim, run, jump, clean andÂ glide. They milk. They help. They assistÂ in factories, shops, homes and hospitals.Â One significant difference between industrial robots and service robotics is that for the latter, there is no multiplier for additional costs associated with getting the robot up and operating in a safe fixed location. Service robots, particularly service robots for personal and private use, tend to be self-contained and/or plug and play and not in need of integration services as is the case with industrial robots.
The International Federation of Robotics (IFR) just published their World Robotics Service Robots statistical review of 2014 (with projections through 2018). The 316-page $675 reportÂ details the sales revenue and units sold by category from a database of approximately 300 service robot manufacturers around the globe.
Revenue from the sale ofÂ industrial robots was $10.7 billion and an additional $21.3 billion for supporting services such as integration, peripherals, software and systems engineering — $32 billionÂ in total. Service robotics (both professional and private) totaled $5.97 billion. Therefore, the combined value of the robotics industry, service, supportÂ and industrial for 2014 was $38 billion.
- In 2014, professional service robots rose by 11.5% from 2013. 24,207 units were sold at a value of $3.77 billion. The IFR is projecting a growth rate of 19% in units and 11% in dollarsÂ through 2018, 36,750 units and $5.7 billion projected for 2018 respectively.
- Defense applications represent 45% of those figures (unmanned aerial vehicles followed by bomb fighting and demining robots).
- Milking robots represented 24% leaving 31% for medical and logistical robots.
- 2014 personal service robots rose 28% over 2013 with a value of $2.2 billion for 4.7 million units. The IFR is forecasting a growth rate of 27% in units and 35% in dollars through 2018 with 12.25 millionÂ units and $7.3 billion projected for 2018 respectively.
- More household items (floor and window cleaners, and lawn mowers) with higher price points account for the higher revenue increase over the percentage for units sold.
There are many, many variables that could seriously alter these projections. The IFR acknowledges this problem as follows:
The 4 year projections are conservative due to the character of the company feed-back. Typically companies only report projections of sales of existing products (or at least pre-series products that are about to be launched). Therefore a future product, Jibo for example, is not reported and counted.
Nevertheless, the projections are very likely to be seriously understated for a variety of possible reasons:
- The acceptance and sale of hundreds of thousands of Pepper robots,
- An increased rate of adaption of home floor cleaning robots in the Asian marketplace similar to the success of iRobot in the English-speaking world,
- The acceptance and sale of millions of Jibo and other table-top robotic assistance devices,
- A near-term solution is found which enables collision avoidance thereby letting mass quantities of drones and drone deliveries into the national air space,
- The collaborative robot marketplace could take off at an even greater rate than the present 70% year-over-year sales increase as new low-cost robots are quickly trained and put to work in SMEs around the globe,
- And many more.
[The IFR produced their report and based their projections on a limited database of 300 service robot companies of which 15% were startups.Â The Robot Report’s database contains over 900 service robot companies and an additional 400 service startups. The IFR’s database is distributed 23% from Asia, 36% from the US and Canada, and 41% from the UK, EU and elsewhere. The Robot Report’s database is quite similarly distributed for service companies but it differs significantly in where the startups are located: only 12% in Asia, Â 48% in the US and Canada, and 40% in the UK, EU, Israel and elsewhere.]