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Courtney Wilson

Dec 7, 2017

Cloud Robotics Expands Machines’ Access to Intelligence

It is amazing how far technology has advanced in the last decade. Internet speeds, computing power, automation, and big data have evolved at an incredible rate. This rapid growth of speed and power has made it possible to create innovative technologies that would have seemed like science fiction just 10 years ago.

There still is a lot of progress to come, and cloud computing will play a significant role. Over the years, the cloud’s boundless storage and computing capabilities, combined with its easy support of collaborative work, have transformed business and technology. Some believe cloud robotics will be the future of artificial intelligence (AI) and the next big disruptor in business.

Benefits of Cloud Robotics

The term “cloud robotics” is relatively new. It was coined in 2010 by James Kuffner, a Carnegie Mellon University professor and CTO of the Toyota Research Institute. Systems that use cloud robotics leverage the memory, computing, and shared services of the cloud to create smarter autonomous robots.

When robotic systems house their intelligence onboard, it can weigh them down and slow their processing time. The computing power and battery life needed to manage large volumes of data make them clunkier and more expensive.

For a robotic system to complete even the simplest of tasks, such as moving around a room, recognizing faces, or picking up an item, it must rely on volumes of trained datasets. When all of a robot’s data and intelligence is housed in-machine, it limits how much the system can learn or process.

When that intelligence is offloaded to the cloud, robotics can become lighter and more affordable, with significantly expanded capabilities. Cloud robotics eases access to vast amounts of datasets and algorithms, which could speed machine learning over time. Connected systems can share data with other systems, creating a ripple effect known as fleet learning. When one robot learns something, the cloud updates the network so all connected systems learn the same thing.

Cloud Robotics and the Future of Work

We’re already seeing the implications of cloud robotics play out with major retailers. Target has been testing a robot connected to the cloud in some of its San Francisco store locations. The autonomous robot rolls around the store scanning items to check if they are misplaced or in low stock. Target can share that information with team members to manage inventory and improve guest experiences.

The cloud could make sophisticated autonomous robots more accessible and affordable to businesses. Right now, cloud robotics is most common in manufacturing, however it has a growing number of use cases in dozens of industries, from transportation to food and hospitality.

Cloud robotics won’t make human intelligence obsolete. Instead, the future will be focused on bringing more human intelligence to machines, and pairing the two to create the most efficient workplace. As with the Target example, connected robots could share data with their human colleagues in real time to inform on-the-spot business decisions.

The era of cloud-connected robots may take jobs, but probably not more than any other technology in the past. It’s likely to be applied to perform specific, repetitive activities typically handled by humans. Monotonous tasks such as monitoring retail shelves and tracking inventory will be performed by smart robots. Our hope is that this is another area where AI will help businesses deploy human talent to more valuable work.

The applications of many of these connected robots perform best in collaboration with humans. Even for autonomous vehicles, which are some of the most advanced computer-vision systems on the market, we clean and prepare datasets. For more information about our tech-forward, managed approach that has outsmarted outsourcing, contact us.

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