Mechanical magic: How mobile robotics will revolutionize lifestyle, productivity in MENA

Published August 22nd, 2016 - 05:26 GMT
At the centre of robotics, drones, and 3D printing innovation in the Middle East is the UAE, with government initiatives leading the way.  (Shutterstock)
At the centre of robotics, drones, and 3D printing innovation in the Middle East is the UAE, with government initiatives leading the way. (Shutterstock)

On the back of advancements in drone and 3D printing technologies, a six-fold growth in shipments of mobile robotics by 2020 will significantly revolutionise lifestyle, productivity, and workplace safety in the Middle East, a new report has revealed.

Worldwide shipments of mobile robotics will grow from four million in 2012 to 25.4 million in 2020,  said a report prepared by Frost & Sullivan in collaboration with Gitex Technology Week. The fastest growing sector in this expansion is predicted to be logistics, with unit shipments of logistics-related robotics increasing from 1,400 in 2012 to 95,000 in 2020. The largest absolute growth will be in personal and household robotics, growing from four million in 2012 to 25 million in 2020.

"As robots get inexorably smarter with advances in Artificial Intelligence and know more about the world around them through access to the Internet of Things and Big Data, they will make more informed decisions and be able to adapt to the environments they inhabit. This in turn will lead to richer human-machine collaboration - driving massive gains in productivity, safer workplaces, and better lives," said Paul Clarke, CTO at the UK-based Ocado, the world's largest online-only grocery retailer.

Ocado is currently partnering with several European Union universities to develop the SecondHand humanoid robot, which aims for factory deployment by 2020.

"Humanoid robots with advanced artificial intelligence are set to be a major leap forward in complementing people and enhancing efficiency in the workplace, especially in high-risk and fast-paced environments. As the Middle East's push for innovation continues, the region is primed to be a centre of having robots transform the workplace. Lessons learnt in retail could be extended to other verticals such as healthcare, hospitality, entertainment, and construction," added Clarke.

With more workplace automation, companies will be able to replace up to 10 workers with one robot, driving down costs by as much as 60 per cent, according to Frost & Sullivan.

The European Federation of Robotics, a non-profit organisation that aims to promote, strengthen, and protect the robotics industry worldwide, predicts the Middle East will see strong take-up of robotics across businesses, especially in industrial and manufacturing. Robotics, along with drones and 3D printing, are three inter-related technologies that are rapidly decreasing in cost, advancing in sophistication, and driving innovation.

At the centre of robotics, drones, and 3D printing innovation in the Middle East is the UAE, with government initiatives leading the way. Dubai recently opened the world's first 3D printed office building, and the Dubai 3D Printing Strategy aims to make the city a global hub by 2030. Numerous government agencies are using drones to monitor security, utilities, and roads.

"Robots increasingly have the artificial intelligence to carry out tasks based on their own decisions, enhancing efficiency and safety. We are on the brink of a major breakthrough in human-machine technology advancement, and the GCC and UAE have the ambition and early adoption mind-set to be global leaders in using robotics to transform daily lives," said Simon Andersen, CIO at the European Federation of Robotics.

With mid-range 3D printers advancing in quality, there is strong industry take-up - from rapid prototyping in industrial manufacturing, to healthcare with hearing aids and dental braces. Globally, 3D printers and services will grow more than six-fold, from $2.5 billion in 2013 to $16.2 billion in 2018, according to a recent analysis by consultants PwC.

3D printing is making major waves in the retail sector - with industry analysts Gartner predicting at least seven of the top 10 retailers in the world using 3D printing. John Vary, Innovation Manager at UK department store John Lewis, will present at GITEX on how the company's in-house Room Y innovation hub has prototyped 3D-printed products.

Drones are seeing strong take-up across a wide range of industry verticals - especially in monitoring sites and delivering goods across long distances, and present a global commercial value of $127 billion, according to a recent report by consultants PWC.

By Isaac John 

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