3 Autonomous Robots That May Steal Your Job
In a recent article, we talked about the coming “Fourth Industrial Revolution” and how astute investors might capitalize on this new age we’re entering. The topic is not without controversy, as robotics combined with artificial intelligence stand to threaten many existing service jobs while also creating new jobs along the way. One of the “low hanging fruit” applications of robotics is the development of autonomous robots that can move around while providing services and information in both hospitality and retail. Let’s take a look at three interesting startups targeting this space.
Founded in 2014, Simbe has taken in an undisclosed amount of funding to develop “the world’s first fully autonomous shelf auditing and analytics solution“. The Company has been operating in stealth mode but recently came out to announce their retail robot called “Tally”. This article from PC Mag talks about Tally, a robot that roams a shop’s aisles for eight to 12 hours on a single charge, counting and checking up to 20,000 products with over a 96 percent accuracy. Global retailers are said to lose nearly $450 billion annually as a result of out-of-stock items, empty shelves, and other in-store inconsistencies. That box of peanut butter granola bars which is placed where the chocolate granola bars are supposed to be will be easily noted by Tally along with a 3D rendering of the shelf that’s compiled along with other inaccuracies into a report for management.
If your job involves checking inventory in a grocery store, you’re likely to be eventually replaced by robots like Tally.
Founded in 2013, Savioke has taken in $17 million so far with their latest funding round of $15 million led by Intel Capital which closed just last month. Google Ventures was an early investor in Savioke as well. The Company is initially putting its “Relay” robots to work at Starwood’s line of Aloft Hotels delivering things to guest rooms. Relay is now appearing in hotels around Silicon Valley and other locations as well. As of last month, they surpassed 11,000 deliveries made and over 1,800 miles traveled. The robot doesn’t press elevator buttons, but uses WiFi instead. While the most popular item being delivered so far is toothpaste, it shouldn’t be to long before we see a new model that delivers hot food.
If your job involves working in hotel housekeeping or room service, you may be working alongside “Relay” or replaced entirely once they figure out how to make it serve food.
Founded in 2011, Fellow Robots has taken in one round of funding, the size of which is undisclosed. The Company came out of SU Labs at Singularity University and has developed two retail robots; NAVII and Oshbot. Both robots appear to offer similar value propositions. NAVII as an example, gives you more information about the products you are looking for, tells you where they are located, and even takes you there. It’s fully autonomous and smartly avoids obstacles. You can talk to it, as it understands and speaks multiple languages. It also helps store employees accurately manage shelf inventory by providing them up-to-date stock information.
If you work in a retail store and your job involves answering customer queries out in the store space, you better look at moving to
the cash register, stock taking, a different industry.
All of these companies are in the very early stages of the investment life cycle for startups, so it’s not likely we’ll see an IPO from any of these companies any time soon. The global robotics industry is expected to grow from $28.3 billion worldwide in 2015 to $151.7 billion by 2020. The majority of that growth will come from “non-industrial” robots as seen in the below chart by Tactica:
While there are some areas of robotics that retail investors can invest in at the moment such as machine vision, most of the exciting robotics startups are off limits for retail investors unless they IPO. Motif Investing announced last year that they will begin offering pre-IPO shares for JP Morgan led IPO offerings. If any of these robot startups eventually file for an IPO, let’s hope JP Morgan is the lead on the deal.