The global market for robots is tens of billions of dollars, and it is growing many times faster than the global economy. Sberbank analysts assessed the main directions and trends of its development.
"You have to run as fast just to stay in the same place, but to get to another place you need to run twice as fast." This quote from Lewis Carroll’s “Alice through the Looking Glass” very successfully describes the speed of technological progress in our time, Sberbank analysts say in a review of robotics for 2019.
Sberbank Robotics Laboratory annually prepares an analytical review of the global robotics market, and since the previous publication in April 2018, significant events have taken place in the industry. Some manufacturers appeared, while others ceased to exist; investments in startups have reached a maximum level; several major mergers and acquisitions occurred; some niches of this market are close to saturation - and all this is a little more than in a year.
In accordance with the standards of the International Federation of Robotics, the authors of the report divide the robots into two families: created for industry and for the service sector. True, due to the mutual penetration of technology, such a tough separation is rapidly becoming obsolete, the study says.
In addition, Sberbank analysts emphasize that over the 100 years of the existence of the term, a universal concept has not appeared that it is a robot. They offer their own, functional set of criteria, which they called the STA definition:
sensation (sense) - the ability to perceive the surrounding world using sensors;
thought (think) - the ability to interpret the signals received through sensors;
action (act) - the ability to influence the physical world in any effective way.
A clear definition of the term “robot” is also necessary for lawmakers and lawyers - rapid automation raises the question of the social consequences of such changes in the near future, which leads us to the problem of positioning the robot as a subject of legal relations.
The technological vector of a post-industrial society is determined by the transition to automated digital production using self-organizing cyberphysical systems. In fact, we are talking about autonomous robots that successfully replace human labor in an increasing number of industries.
The latest accurate data on the industrial robot market is for 2017, and this is 381 thousand units of equipment. Preliminary estimates for 2018 indicate an increase to 421 thousand robots. In the near future, the average annual growth rate will be about 14%, which means that by 2021 there will already be 630 thousand industrial robots in the world.
At a cost of these 381 thousand robots the year before last amounted to about $ 16.7 billion - in five years, the figure doubled. Moreover, this is only “hardware”, taking into account software, the market value grows to $ 48 billion in 2017. It is difficult to say what will happen to the value of the entire market in the coming years, because the average cost of one device is steadily decreasing.
Sberbank analysts highlight several factors of explosive market growth in recent years:
increased demand for robots, not the least of which is played by the modernization of China's industry;
the development of 3D printing and other technologies that make the production of robots faster and cheaper;
growth in investment in the industry: if in 2017 the ten largest transactions were completed at $ 700 million, then in 2018 - already at $ 11.5 billion.
In the coming years, these three factors will remain valid, so there is no reason to talk about slowing down growth in the industry, the authors of the report are sure.
Of all industries, about a third of the demand for robotics is provided by the electronics industry and the same amount by the automotive industry, with the last industry now beginning to give way to the status of the main consumer of robots. The reason is the growing demand for advanced consumer electronics and the need to automate the processes of its creation.
An interesting example is South Korea. Robotization of the electrical industry there has reached saturation, so demand has weakened significantly, and in 2017, robot sales in the country decreased by 4%. In neighboring China, where large-scale modernization is underway, in the same year, demand for robots grew by 60%. In general, South Korea now has the highest density of robots: 710 devices per 10 thousand industrial workers. The global average is 85 robots per 10 thousand workers. In China, it is 97 robots, in Russia - four.
Least of all is robotics present in shipbuilding, aircraft manufacturing, nuclear industry, mining and agriculture. It's just that in these industries at the current level of development, robotization remains a complex and expensive process. But this same factor leaves room for the upcoming technological breakthrough here.
The robots market for the service sector is still half the size of the industrial robotics market: about $ 8.1 billion in 2018. The number of service robots, according to estimates for 2018, turned out to be three times less than industrial robots - 165 thousand pieces. But the service economy itself, by its contribution to world GDP, is twice as large as industry, so the growth of the robotic industry will occur precisely at the expense of it, the authors of the report are sure.
Moreover, in fact, this is already happening. In 2017, the global economy grew by 3.7%, the industrial robot market - by 31%, and the service robot market - by 85%. The average annual growth rate here will amount to 21 against 14% in industry.
In terms of the number of devices, the absolute leader (over 60%) is the logistics sector. These are autonomous storage carts, packers, sorters, couriers and more. A well-known example of such automation is Amazon. A job that requires 1 man-hour, its warehouse robot performs in 15 minutes. Amazon’s operating costs have been reduced by 20%, saving the company $ 22 million a year.
Military robots, followed by robots for working in public places, agricultural robots and medical devices, are enormously behind the logistics systems in terms of numbers. But this all applies to professional technology, while there is still a market for personal devices, not so large in value ($ 2.1 billion in 2017), but huge in number (8.5 million devices sold that year). These include household assistants and educational robot platforms.
Demand for one type or another of robots directly correlates with the needs of the economy as a whole. If the rapid modernization of China's factories makes the country the main consumer of industrial robots, the economically developed USA holds strong leadership in the demand for service robots and their production. In total, there are over 700 key companies - manufacturers of service robots in the world.