A few months ago, a particularly entertaining story about a Roomba that accidentally spread dog poop all around a family’s home circulated around the internet. Lately, you can find entire forums dedicated to robot fails and entertain yourself for hours with gifs of robots doing something obviously wrong and therefore hilarious. From stories and clips like these, one may rightly draw the conclusion that robots just aren’t smart enough yet to realize the nightmares of Elon Musk or Stephen Hawking. However, that day may still come. Robotics as a field of engineering is rapidly taking off, and students with experience through FIRST or VEX programs already have a great head-start in the field.
According to IDC, a global market research firm that specializes in analyzing new trends in technology, the use of robots in everything from manufacturing floors to our homes is poised to boom over the next three years. In their 2018 annual report, IDC makes ten predictions about the growth of robotics across nearly every industry.
The manufacturing sector seems poised to grow the most. Manufacturing is being brought back to the United States with a vengeance, but it’s evolved from what it once was. No longer is manufacturing the dirty, assembly-line job of old. Advanced manufacturing processes are more about programming a machine to give you repeatable finished welds or CNC’ed and laser-cut patterns. A fleet of robots all working together in an automated assembly line that can spit out part after perfect part. Jobs around this sector have likewise shifted from boots on the ground needed to perform repetitious tasks to people who can design the plant layout, program the robots, and maintain them when something inevitably goes awry. According to IDC, 60% of G2000 companies (the world’s 2000 largest companies) will have deployed industrial robots into the manufacturing operations. By 2020, 45% of those industrial robots will have some form of AI or machine learning feature included. And by 2021, robots that supervise, coordinate, and maintain other robots will begin to emerge, in theory boosting manufacturing efficiency by another 30%. These numbers paint a telling picture of where the manufacturing industry is headed.
With the manufacturing sector poised to make such rapid gains in efficiency, it’s no wonder that other industries are positioned to add robots to their arsenals as well. The security, retail, and consumer industries are all predicted make greater use of robots over the next three years as well. While their growth will likely not be as drastic as manufacturing, more and smarter robots should be making their way into people’s everyday lives soon.
And with this comes an opportunity! As I’m sure you’ve heard before and will hear again, robots don’t make themselves (yet). In order to make these predictions come true, we need all types of people with a passion for and experience in robotics to join in. Electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, plant automation specialists, line design & maintenance, programmers… there are too many roles to fill for the current workforce to handle. This is where robotics competitions come into play! By giving students direct applicable experience, it allows them to go into college with a leg up on those without these programs, and to graduate yet another step ahead of the previous generation of engineers and designers. This will help spur the robotics boom further still, opening up a new wave of robotics possibilities and intelligence not yet seen in today’s robots.
If you’re interested in seeing the detailed predictions, you can download a copy of IDC’s report here.
Written by: Kyle McLellan
Kyle is an electronics engineer at DISHER, a nationally-recognized product development, talent solutions, and business consulting team. Kyle likes to take part in designing complex systems at the intersection where hardware, firmware, mechanics, and optics meet. He enjoys spending time outdoors with his wife and their dog, and volunteering as chairman of RIM.
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