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What Is Internet of Robotic Things?

We’re currently living in one of the most incredible, fast-paced, and epic periods of technological innovation in history. Consumer goods and services that would’ve been considered science fiction merely a few years ago are unfolding before our very eyes in ways that are almost surreal. Wi-Fi enabled cars, health-tracking wearables, augmented reality apps, or online hospitality and taxi services like Airbnb or Uber . . . you name it, the pace of technological transformation is mind-boggling. And apparently, from what the experts tell us this is just the tip of the iceberg!

The biggest buzzword in business today is “Internet of Things” – which simply put describes the process of attaching everyday objects to the Internet to send and receive data. Triggered by the confluence of new technologies such as Big Data, mobile, and cloud, along with the low-cost of sensors and the increasing ubiquity of Wi-Fi capabilities, IoT is promising to become the next big wave of technological innovation to the tune of possibly trillions of dollars of revenue in the next decade.

in 2011 as an electronic, programmable, and self-learning Wi-Fi-enabled thermostat by a former designer for Apple, the product has caught the imagination of the business world about what is possible with IoT. In fact, Nest was sold to Google in 2014 for $3.2 Billion but has kept its original name and is now leading the wave of smart home automation with other products like the Nest Cam. Many, many other consumer products are now going online, ranging from lightbulbs to refrigerators

Gartner Research estimates that IoT will comprise 25 billion objects by the year 2020. Whether it be toothbrushes or refrigerators or smart connected devices in the homes, everything is now capable of becoming a “thing” connected to the Internet that can be tracked and analyzed. Some have called this epic revolution the “Third Wave of the Internet” which may be bigger than the original creation itself. Listen to how Steve Case, co-founder and former chief executive officer and chairman of American Online (AOL), describes it in his recent book:

The Third Wave of the Internet will be defined not by the Internet of Things; it will be defined by the Internet of Everything. . . . where the Internet will be fully integrated into every part of our lives—how we learn, how we heal, how we manage our finances, how we get around, how we work, even what we eat. As the Third Wave gains momentum, every industry leader in every economic sector is at risk of being disrupted. Think about what’s been happening in Silicon Valley over the past decade and imagine what it will like when we apply that same culture of innovation and scope of ambition to every part of our economy. That’s the Third Wave—and it’s not just coming; it’s here.

Another huge part of this “Third Wave” of innovation is the field of robotics. Robotics is a broad and very interdisciplinary field encompassing computer science and the software, electrical, and mechanical engineering domains. Robots also happen to cover a broad range of applications and industries, from automotive manufacturing robots that help weld and assemble cars on an assembly line to rovers that explore the surface of Mars to humanoid service robots that are currently in wide use in Japan. There is really no uniform definition of a robot but the closest attempt is that it represents a system of sensors, control systems, manipulators, power supplies, and software all working together to perform a complex series of actions automatically.

An IoT device is often characterized as an object with a sensor that gives it the ability to send and receive data, along with some form of ambient intelligence. The Nest device mentioned earlier is one such example; it provides the end user the ability to control the thermostat remotely and also employs machine learning algorithms to adjust to her preferred temperature. Nest would be an Internet of Things device, but not be considered a robot in the traditional sense since it doesn’t include localization features.

But what happens when the same technologies of cloud, mobile, and Big Data – the undergirding tech that make IoT possible – are also aligned with robots? A couple years ago ABI Research explored this possibility in a research publication entitled “The Internet of Robotic Things.”  One of the major premise of the research is that robotic technologies should also be considered “edge devices” that expand, enhance, and align with the IoT. While Internet of Things devices are relatively passive and simple in their ability to send and receive data, robots qualify as more sophisticated forms of IoT devices; they are essentially

intelligent devices [that] can monitor events, fuse sensor data from a variety of sources, use local and distributed ‘intelligence’ to determine a best course of action, and then act to control or manipulate objects in the physical world, and in some cases while physically moving through that world.

One example of an “Internet of Robotic Things” type of device would be the Amazon Robotics mobile fulfillment unit, which is being used by the thousands to automate the picking and packing process across the company’s network of warehouses. These devices are helping Amazon become synonymous with world-class packing and shipping efficiency. Within this system, items are stored on portable storage units so that when an Amazon order is entered into the database system, the software sends a signal to the closest mobile robot to retrieve the merchandise. The mobile robots navigate around the warehouse by following a series of computerized barcode stickers on the floor of the warehouse. When the robot reaches the target location, it slides underneath the pod and lifts it off the ground through a corkscrew action. The robot then carries the pod to the specified human operator who selects the requested items. Each mobile unit is equipped with sensors so that multiple devices can be in transit within the warehouse simultaneously without colliding into each other.


Internet of Robotic Things represents an exciting but rather unknown category for discussing the expanding dimensions of the IoT industry. In this and subsequent blog posts we aim to add definition and further meaning to this exciting new domain by providing relevant information, industry trends, news items, curated content, and other useful resources that can direct players on how to strategize and gain traction in this explosive new IoT niche. Stay tuned!

Why Businesses Must Get Ready for the Era of Robotic Things

We’ve entered a period of epic technological transformation that is impacting society in ways that are leaving even veteran tech observers speechless. In some ways it might seem like 1998 all over again. The Internet was then in its infancy and cyberspace was uncharted territory for much of the population. The Dot-com boom and eventual bust was inevitable and reflected the markets expanding and contracting with the newfound surge of interest, but obviously overinflated speculation, around the potential of the Internet to transform society. Following a tremendous growth spurt in the first 5-6 years, the World Wide Web ended its first decade by learning to become sociable.

Indeed, the rise of the digital social network through channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat have transformed how businesses and individuals work, think, and communicate. And now that the Internet has crossed the threshold into young adulthood, it’s continuing to grow and drive massive transformations throughout all parts of business and society. Soon-to-be-released autonomous cars, wearable tech, drones, 3-D printing, smart machines, home automation, virtual assistants like Siri, you name it . . . the pace of change is staggering.

We’re seeing right now are a result of three major confluences over the past 8 years: mobile, cloud, and Big Data. These technologies have collectively resulted in quicker and more efficient means of collaboration, development, and production, which in turn have allowed businesses to achieve unprecedented levels of growth and expansion. New ways of working, often remotely, mean that more people can do their jobs outside of traditional corporate structures. We’ve entered not only the freelancer economy, but the startup one as well. Now everyone is an entrepreneur and innovation and new business growth is through the roof. What’s more is that technology processes and production cycles have become commoditized. This means that anyone with the right idea, system, skills, and network in place today can effectively build a billion dollar business with very low overhead costs.

This crazy rate of change is certainly great from the consumer standpoint, but also a bit unnerving for businesses simply trying to keep their head above the water. How are companies today to keep up with the market, their competitors, and with consumer expectations? What does all this change mean for startups struggling to gain traction, for more traditional brick and mortar businesses, and even for established enterprises that might be too big to pivot quickly?

These are more comprehensive questions that we’ll try to answer in another blog post. But for now, here is what we do know about the massive impacts over the next few years. The first thing is that Internet of Things is taking the world by storm with projections that 21 billion objects will be connected by the year 2020. That’s just about 3 for every man, woman, and child on the planet! A few years ago Cisco estimated that the IoT market would create $19 trillion of economic value in the next decade.

What’s more is that the global robotics industry is also undergoing a major transformation. Market intelligence firm Tractica released a report in November 2015 forecasting that global robotics will grow from $28.3 billion worldwide in 2015 to $151.7 billion by 2020. What’s especially significant is that this market share will encompass mostly non-industrial robots, including segments like consumer, enterprise, medical, military, UAVs, and autonomous vehicles. Tractica anticipates an increase in annual robots shipments from 8.8 million in 2015 to 61.4 million by 2020; in fact, by 2020 over half of this volume will come from consumer robots.

Putting together the two major industry trends, it doesn’t take rocket science to figure out that the two industries – Internet of Things and Robotics – will together lead to a “perfect storm” of global market disruption, opportunities, and growth in the next 4 years and beyond. This confluence is part of a larger epic transformation, which has appropriately been called the Second Machine Age. Listen to how this FastCompany article sums it up:

The fact is we’re now on the cusp of a “Second Machine Age,” one powered not by clanging factory equipment but by automation, artificial intelligence, and robotics. Self-driving cars are expected to be widespread in the coming decade. Already, automated checkout technology has replaced cashiers, and computerized check-in is the norm at airports. Just like the Industrial Revolution more than 200 years ago, the AI and robotics revolution is poised to touch virtually every aspect of our lives—from health and personal relations to government and, of course, the workplace.

This is a mouthful but in case it’s not clear, let me spell it out: there’s never been a better time than now to get onboard with robotics and Internet of Things!

If you’re a startup or small business owner, and especially feeling behind the technology curve, you’re certainly not alone. But instead of commiserating about all of the changes, proactively start today to ask yourself what it will take to get your organization to the next level of innovation. Set yourself up with a 6 month, 12 month, 18 month and 2 year innovation plan which maps to a broader 2020 strategy. Time is of the essence but it’s not too late to pivot and get onboard with the robotics and IoT revolution. As the famous statement goes, “The journal of a thousand miles starts with one step.”

Why not start your robotics and IoT journey today?

How Businesses Can Prepare for the Era of Robotic Things

In our post last Friday we discussed some of the momentous ways that emerging technologies in recent years have transformed our ways of life and how we do business. Particularly, we pinpointed the confluence of mobile, cloud, and Big Data as the forces behind unprecedented new levels of collaboration, development, and production throughout all sectors of society. Just take, for instance, the transformations posed by the era of cloud computing on a small business. It used to be that setting up a data infrastructure was no small undertaking and required months of onsite preparation, including servers and frameworks along with paperwork and testing and customization. But now anyone with a credit card can setup a whole infrastructure in less than 5 minutes.

As Steve Case has said in his recent book, the Third Wave of the Internet is promising to be many times more disruptive than the first instantiation 20 years ago. In the past two decades we’ve progressed beyond the age of information sharing and sociability to the point now where everyone and everything is becoming connected virtually whether on the road, at home, or in the office. This new era of technological change will transform everything we thought we knew about the world and more.

This includes even the very nature of work. Thanks to advances in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and the emergence of cognitive computing (think IBM Watson) machines are now smart enough to do jobs once consigned only to humans. If there was ever a concern that robotics might steal your job, then now is the time to skill-up and keep one step ahead of them. Market predictions tell us that global robotics will increase by well over 400% in the next 4 years!

So this brings us back to some of the questions we started to pose in Friday’s blog. How can businesses today of various sizes adequately prepare for the “tsunami” of changes that will be coming in the next few years without being swept away? How can your organization get onboard with the Internet of Things? Or survive the robotics revolution for that matter?

FOR STARTUPS

If you’re a fledgling startup, the market can be your friend precisely because you’re fresh and un-encumbered. But here are a few more considerations to keep in mind:

  • Make Internet of Things a central part of your customer outreach; embrace the technology and use it to set yourself apart from the competition.
  • Brainstorm about what parts of your operation can be more easily automated.
  • Start testing and experimenting with robots and consider adopting Telepresence devices to enable employees to work remotely. By keeping new technologies on everyone’s radar you send the message that you’re forward-thinking.
  • Preserve a culture of innovation and continually disrupt yourself in order to stay market relevant.
  • Being nimble and agile is an advantage, leverage it!

FOR SMALL BUSINESSES

If you’re a “brick and mortar” company there’s usually a built-in tendency to follow business as usual. That would be the worst mistake at such a critical time. Since markets are changing at lightning speed, disruption is inevitable. Here is what you need to do to be self-disruptive:

  • Hire a market strategist to advise your leadership on how to pivot towards becoming a digital organization.
  • Don’t try to boil the ocean but find out how to start with incremental changes in your products and services and then extend your reach to untapped markets. Setup some key performance indicators that can be adopted to measure your initial progress.
  • Adopt a content-and-audience-first approach by using blogs, podcasts, and videos to build a faithful online following you can leverage to promote your brand and drive sales.
  • Provide regular training and new opportunities for employees to “skill-up” and then let them leverage that new knowledge on the job.

FOR MID-TO-LARGE ENTERPRISES

In this category revenue is usually not a problem, but it is much easier to trip over yourself. Here are a few pointers:

  • Engage with Gartner or Forrester to provide market research and analysis on the latest disruptive technology trends and organizational impacts.
  • Leverage cognitive computing, machine learning, and artificial intelligence as a central part of your R&D, and start to find ways to build solutions around these technologies.
  • Promote continual innovation and disruption, encourage employees to become intrapreneurs within the organization, and then reward those who lead the charge.
  • Consider Myria Research’s perspective on how the rise of robots will extend to the executive suite with the new role of CRO – Chief Robotics Officer.

What Is a CRO and Will Your Business Soon Need One?

The times are changing! What seemed like science fiction a few years ago is now on the front page of the news. Augmented reality, wearables, virtual assistants, robots, and other smart devices are beginning to permeate our daily lives. Amazon Prime Air, the ecommerce giant’s new retail drone delivery system, is ready to launch but is waiting on regulatory approval from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. If you have not seen the latest video of their system in action then it’s an eye-opener on how far automation has come.

Turning from the skies to the road, robotics is set to revolutionize how we drive. Self-driving features are already available in certain models like Tesla, with fully automated vehicles ready for purchase in the next few years. In fact, some forecasts estimate that 10 million of these cars will be on the road by 2020. Who would have thought?

There’s no other way to state it: the business impacts of automation in the next decade will be profound. Market intelligence firm Tractica estimates that the global robotics market will grow from $28.3 billion worldwide in 2015 to $151.7 billion by 2020. What’s especially significant is that this market share will encompass mostly non-industrial robots, including segments like consumer, enterprise, medical, military, UAVs, and autonomous vehicles.

But even more impactful than CAGR numbers and market projections around robotics, are the implications on jobs. People are growing increasingly concerned about the ways automation will change their work and careers, and rightfully so. Gartner Research, one of the world’s leading voices in technology trends, has declared that the smart machine era will be the most disruptive in the history of IT. And even now, the results of a 2013 Gartner survey show that sixty percent of CEOs believe that the emergence of smart machines capable of taking away millions of middle class jobs within the next 15 years is a “futuristic fantasy.” Be that as it may, this new era of robotics is going to dramatically change the nature of work – along with the roles and functions of business.

And this is where things get really interesting!

According to Remy Glaisner, CEO and founder of Myria Research, the future robotics revolution will significantly impact the C-Suite of business. As Robotics and Intelligence Operational Systems (RIOS) technologies scale up, companies will require more structured and strategic approaches to managing the implications of this global transformation on their verticals.

Enter the CRO, or Chief Robotics Officer. In a whitepaper dedicated to this topic, Glaisner spells out the role and function of a CRO:

The Chief Robotics Officer plans, directs, organizes and manages all activities of the RIOS (Robotics & Intelligent Operational Systems) department to ensure the effective, secure and efficient use of all RIOS solutions and applications. These efforts must be accomplished in partnership with other business units (IT, Finance, Engineering, R&D, Operations, HR, Business Development, et al) and increasingly with senior management and the Board of Directors. CROs must have significant vertical industry knowledge so that they can better consider the evolution of RIOS solutions in existing and future functions and processes.

The anticipated effects of this new enterprise transformation on business and technology will be fascinating, if not a bit staggering, and suggest that we truly are living in unprecedented times.

Back in January of 2007, Bill Gates famously declared robots as the “next big thing” and placed the industry at the same place as the PC market in the late 1970s. Perhaps this prediction was a bit pre-mature at the time since breakthroughs in mobile, cloud, and Big Data were just beginning. But now a decade later, things are much different; technology has reached an inflection point. Everything about the market suggests that it’s finally happening – that robots really are about to go mainstream.

So the question now becomes simple: How will you adapt and adjust to the global disruption caused by robots and automation in the next 5-10 years? What will your company do about this sea change? Now is the time to plan and pivot in order to avoid falling behind this technology curve. As Glaisner predicts, within the next decade “over 60% of manufacturing, logistics & supply chain, healthcare, agro-farming, and oil/gas/mining companies part of the Global 1000 will include a Chief Robotic Officer (CRO) and associated staff as part of their organization.”

The age of robotics is truly upon us. Will you be ready?

Why Robotics Will Be Bigger Than The PC & Mobile Industries Combined

In a well-publicized article in Scientific America at the beginning of 2007 Bill Gates made a bold prediction that robotics would be the “next big thing.” He likened the industry to emergent PCs of the late 1970s . . . as being just ready to take off. In that article Gates drew some further comparisons between the two periods and suggested that if we did a thought experiment we wouldn’t really be able to tell the difference between 1977 and 2007.

Imagine being present at the birth of a new industry. It is an industry based on groundbreaking new technologies, wherein a handful of well-established corporations sell highly specialized devices for business use and a fast-growing number of start-up companies produce innovative toys, gadgets for hobbyists and other interesting niche products. But it is also a highly fragmented industry with few common standards or platforms. Projects are complex, progress is slow, and practical applications are relatively rare. In fact, for all the excitement and promise, no one can say with any certainty when–or even if–this industry will achieve critical mass. If it does, though, it may well change the world.

Now, of course, Mr. Gates can be excused for not quite getting the timing right on the robotics part of the equation. Nine years ago mobile, cloud, or Big Data were just on the horizon. The first iPhone would be released in June 2008, software-as-a-serve was just starting to take off; with all the information generated from mobile devices, Big Data soon followed. But it was those epic transformations that resulted in the incremental wins – the consumerization of technology, faster ways to collaborate, open source hardware and cheaper manufacturing – that have brought us ever so close to a robot in every home.

What’s different about today versus 2007 is that society and business have reached an inflection point where the technologies and markets are ripe for automation. Breakthroughs in artificial intelligence and machine learning and the emergence of the new field of cognitive computing mean that devices today are more intelligent and efficient than ever. Smart machines today that can learn and modify behavior based on our preferences are becoming more and more ubiquitous. Internet of Things is becoming huge, not to mention self-driving cars, retail drones, smart homes . . . you name it, we’re living in exciting times!

It’s hard to grasp the enormous business impacts of automation. Market intelligence firm Tractica estimates that the global robotics market will grow from $28.3 billion worldwide in 2015 to $151.7 billion by 2020. What’s especially significant is that this market share will encompass mostly non-industrial robots, including segments like consumer, enterprise, medical, military, UAVs, and autonomous vehicles.

Now going back to Bill Gates and the comparison between robotics and the PC industry for a moment, it is interesting to consider a few things . . .

Technological progress is conventionally demarcated by ages or waves. In broader historical terms we can talk about the First and Second Industrial Revolutions, which stretch back to the 19th century. Today we hear terms like The Second Machine Age or The Third Wave to describe the current epoch. If we look at the history of the computer industry over the past 40 years, we could also divide the period into 3 major periods: the PC revolution, the Internet revolution, and the Mobile revolution.

In an excellent Business Insider article earlier this year, Matt Rosoff applied these points to specify our entrance into the next big thing.

A couple of important points. First, when a revolution ends, that doesn’t mean the revolutionary technology goes away. Everybody still has a PC. Everybody still uses the internet. It simply means that the technology is so common and widespread that it’s no longer revolutionary. It’s taken for granted. So: The mobile revolution is over. More than a billion smartphones ship every year. Apple will probably sell fewer iPhones this year than last year for the first time since the product came out. Huge new businesses have already been built on the idea that everybody will have an internet-connected computer in their pocket at all times . . . This doesn’t mean that smartphones are going away, or that Apple is doomed, or any of that nonsense. But the smartphone is normal now. Even boring. It’s not revolutionary.

Amazon has done a superb job of turning robotics into something revolutionary. Consider how the ecommerce giant has deployed robotic fulfillment devices by the thousands to automate the picking and packing process across its vast network of warehouses. Or how Amazon Prime Air is set to use drones to revolutionize the speed with which retail shipments are made.

So What Does the ROBOTICS REVOLUTION Mean for You and Your Organization?

We’re living in exciting times and are about to see epic changes that generations before us couldn’t have imagined. But at the same time, this can all seem very overwhelming especially if you’re a small business or brand new startup.

The best thing to do is to proactively start today to ask yourself what it will take to get your organization to the next level of innovation. Set yourself up with a 6 month, 12 month, 18 month and 2 year innovation plan which maps to a broader 2020 strategy.

FOR STARTUPS

The key thing in your favor is that you’re new. Being nimble and agile is an advantage, leverage it! Here are some additional considerations to keep in mind.

  • Think of creative ways to include robotics and automation in your customer outreach and marketing strategy
  • Embrace machine learning and AI and use these technologies to set yourself apart from the competition.
  • Start testing and experimenting with Telepresence devices to enable employees to work remotely. By keeping new technologies on everyone’s radar you send the message that you’re forward-thinking.
  • Preserve a culture of innovation and continually disrupt yourself in order to stay ahead of the market.

FOR SMALL BUSINESSES

Since markets are changing at lightning speed, disruption is inevitable. Here is what you need to do to be self-disruptive and stay ahead of the robotics revolution.

  • Hire a market strategist to advise your leadership on how to pivot towards embracing key disruptive technologies like robotics, machine learning, and AI.
  • Don’t try to boil the ocean but find out how to start with incremental changes. Try automating as many as product and services as possible. Setup some key performance indicators that can be adopted to measure your initial progress.
  • Provide rich content through blogs, podcasts, and videos to promote your brand and drive sales; start blogging on robotics and sharing with your customers how automation will transform the way we do business.
  • Provide regular training and new opportunities for employees to “skill-up” and then let them leverage that new knowledge on the job.

Do You Have What It Takes to Become a Robopreneur?

Summary: The expected “tsunami” of robotics growth over the next several years will require leaders with specific business and robotics skills. In fact, just as an entrepreneur is by definition someone who organizes and operates a business, a “robopreneur” possesses specific know-how needed to operate a company in today’s emerging global robotics market.

The year is 2020 and you’ve just stepped out of your autonomous electric car at the entrance of the office. You get out and ask the car to self-park. Though you work remotely most of the week, today there are some face to face meetings you want to attend. Fortunately, during the 20 minute ride you were able to catch-up on some reading. Before taking two steps to the main entrance you remember your daughter’s birthday gift for her party tomorrow. You quickly hop on over to Amazon to select the “Lafreddy Race Wheeled Skate Shoes” she’s been dying for. The order is placed and you select 30 minute delivery, knowing the shoes will be waiting on the lawn when you get home.

Over the next 4 years the world is going to fundamentally change. Science fiction will become reality as the emerging tsunami of robotics and automation reaches through all lines of business and commerce and society. We’re at an inflection point now and things are about to get interesting!

Warehouse robots are already quietly transforming the whole packaging process at Amazon fulfillment centers. Drone delivery is about to become reality as well. Google, Tesla, and a number of other automakers are all pushing to introduce self-driving cars to the consumer market within the next 1-2 years. While the home robotics space is still up for grabs, smart home and Internet of Things technologies are rapidly expanding with a wide range of consumer products already available that automate everything from lights to heating and cooling to security.

The business impacts of robotics and automation in the next few years will be profound. Market intelligence firm Tractica estimates that the global robotics market will grow from $28.3 billion worldwide in 2015 to $151.7 billion by 2020. What’s especially significant is that this market share will encompass mostly non-industrial robots, including segments like consumer, enterprise, medical, military, UAVs, and autonomous vehicles.

While there are lots of naysayers who say robots will steal all the jobs, people have lots resiliency and adaptability to adjust to the changes imposed by these new technologies. Granted, new training and developments will be required to keep their jobs relevant, especially by onboarding with higher order abilities such as coding, statistics, visualization, information management, and Big Data. But we seem to be getting by fine without switchboard operators or on-site travel agents. Times change and so do people.

To be sure, the robotics revolution will be the stimulus for trillions of dollars of investments on a global scale leading to enormous new job opportunities, startups, and business growth. Imagine working as a drone pilot, social robot learning specialist, or chief robotics officer – to name just a few of the emerging roles designed for the robotics era. As one insider has well stated, “It’s job transformation, not job replacement.”

The role of entrepreneurship in the emerging robotics economy will also require new skills, approaches, and competencies about doing business. Traditional methods and models will not be enough to compete in this new space. Consider the following focus areas that will be required for the “robopreneur” of the 21st century.

Digital Literacy

Competitive advantage in today’s emerging robotics economy means that business leaders must be in lock-step with the technologies, devices, and behaviors that are part of today’s world of work. This goes beyond just knowing how to use smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop PCS. What is also required is familiarity with Internet of Things, automation, and smart machines. Knowing how to engage and use these tools and platforms will be key differentiators in the emerging robotics economy.

Autonomous Business Models

New breakthroughs in artificial intelligence and Big Data in recent years have brought us ever closer to what Gartner Research calls “autonomous business.” This is defined as a business “where goal-seeking, self-learning artificial agents pursue the optimization of business outcomes on their own initiative.” What this means is that tasks once ascribed to humans can now be performed more efficiently by smart machines. Robopreneurs will need to identify and understand jobs that can be automated and outsourced to machines and to then replace these tasks with less routine human work.

Industry 4.0

The manufacturing industry is undergoing a quiet but steady revolution that will have significant impacts on the robotics economy. It is known as Industry 4.0 (or in some sectors, Internet of Industrial Things) and represents a convergence of “cyber-physical systems” – cloud computing, augmented reality, robotics, and Internet of Things – focused on transferring digital instructions to the physical world in order to build the next generation infrastructure (think smart factories, smart streets, and smart cities). One example of a company that is “catalyzing digital manufacturing” is a Massachusetts-based firm called Tulip. Robopreneurs will need to understand the direction of Industry 4.0 and how robotics plays an integral role in this digital economy of scale and production.

Open Source Hardware

Hardware prototyping has traditionally been difficult, expensive, and lengthy. But as costs of materials for microcontrollers and circuits have plummeted over the past decade, and a new generation of DIY prototyping materials like Arduino and Raspberry Pi emerged, the open source hardware (OSH) movement has gained rapid traction and growth. Add to this the phenomenon of 3-D printing, and you’ll quickly understand there has never been a better time for modeling, building, and scaling robots and robotic technologies. Robopreneurs will need to be fluent in the OSH ecosystem and be able to strategize the best and most economical means to prototype and build robots.

Content Marketing

It’s easy to focus on the “nuts and bolts” of robotics building – the hardware and software and advanced AI that go into building your cool invention. And this is where many roboticists err; they assume that “If I build it, they will come.” Any cool robot needs to be properly showcased and marketed to the public, and that’s where content marketing comes in. Content Marketing has been around for awhile but is gaining resurgence in many sectors. The idea here is that instead of focusing on the product first, as most businesses do, you instead focus on your target audience and early adopters by providing them with rich content. After picking a primary delivery channel such as a blog, podcast, whitepaper, or video, you deliberately stream content to build a following of customers that you can eventually sell to. This is a different model than many traditional business methods but there are many examples of individuals who have built multi-million dollar brands with this approach. The advantage is that anyone can adopt content marketing and it takes very little overhead. Robopreneurs will need to be as deliberate about blogging as robot-building in order to provide the highest value to their customers.


So What Does THIS Really Mean for You and Your Organization?

There’s never been a better time to think about becoming a “robopreneur” – the robotics economy is just about to take off and the knowledge, skills, and resources required to build a robotics startup are accessible to everyone.

The best thing to do is to proactively start today to ask yourself what it will take to get onboard with the latest innovations to achieve your robotics business-building objectives. Set yourself up with a 6 month, 12 month, 18 month and 2 year innovation plan which maps to a broader 2020 strategy. Here are a few recommendations for how to seize this current opportunity and move ahead in the robotics economy.

Don’t Boil the Ocean – Start with incremental changes and scale up. Try automating as many as product and services as possible while establishing some KPIs to measure your initial progress.

Remember Content is King – Businesses tend to get on the blog-writing bandwagon but then peter out after a while until eventually the blog becomes irrelevant and sporadic. Focus on using a resource like My Blog Squad to jumpstart your content strategy.

Skill-Up – No one has an excuse today for not being up-to-date on the latest and greatest innovations. There are a wealth of free and modestly priced resources online today that can teach you anything from robotics prototyping to deep learning and more.

Outsource – Building a startup –whether a robotics business or otherwise – can all seem a bit overwhelming. So don’t feel that you need to climb Mt. Everest in one week! Make the most of the freelancing economy and gain access to high quality labor for a reasonable price. Leverage a platform like Upwork to hire a market strategist who can help with kicking off your research and development efforts.

3 Big Reasons Your Small Business Needs a Robotics Strategy

In the public consciousness robots are still largely consigned to the realm of science fiction – unless of course you happen to reside in Japan. Today the average person will see robots depicted on TV or in the movies as either friend or foe.

You’ll occasionally meet someone who has a Roomba vacuum cleaner and there may be the rare early adopter who has purchased one of the growing number of humanoid robots on the market. But aside from a speculative news article every now and then about taking over our jobs, robots are still not taken very seriously.

This is all about to dramatically change!

As we’ve said in previous posts, the global robotics market is about to explode over the next few years. If you’re a small business or startup the robotics revolution might not seem like a big deal. After all, it’s challenging enough to keep up with the latest trends and technologies while competing against other human beings in today’s competitive market – not to mention worrying about robots.

To the small business owner probably the more immediate concern (at least for the U.S. market) is about jobs going to China and India. Besides, new and small businesses are not usually the earliest adopters on new technologies.

So the topic of “robotics” might seem wildly irrelevant to the digital marketing agency trying to promote its new metrics platform or to the new content marketing startup trying to revolutionize how bloggers gain targeted traffic.

But that’s exactly the catch—a revolution doesn’t just take place when everyone is waiting for it. Revolutions in business happen because of a groundswell of new demand and marketplace disruption.

This is why there are 3 “big” reasons why your small business cannot afford to stand on the sidelines and get hit by the tsunami of robotics-related technologies entering the market over the next few years.

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1. Global Robotics Is Huge

Market intelligence firm Tractica estimates the global robotics market to grow from $28.3 billion worldwide in 2015 to $151.7 billion by 2020. What’s especially significant is that this market share will encompass mostly non-industrial robots, including segments like consumer, enterprise, medical, military, UAVs, and autonomous vehicles.

The impacts of this revolution will be profoundly felt throughout the corporate world as well. In a carefully researched whitepaper, Remy Glaisner predicts that by 2025 "over 60% of manufacturing, logistics & supply chain, healthcare, agro-farming, and oil/gas/mining companies part of the Global 1000 will include a Chief Robotic Officer (CRO) and associated staff as part of their organization."

Market forecasters have been speculating for years about the promises of robotics. What’s different this time is that emerging technologies have reached an inflection point. Everything about the global market suggests that robotics is really about to go mainstream!

2. Retail Will Go Robotic

The robotics industry, which was once primarily associated with automobile assembly lines, has been steadily and quietly growing thanks to a combination of factors in recent years – the cheaper cost of electronic components, faster ways of collaboration, 3-D printing, and the impressive growth of open source hardware . . .  to name just a few.

We’re now seeing examples of this technology in the mainstreaming of drones. Amazon will soon offer drone delivery at checkout in 30 minutes or less, and the ecommerce giant is already using thousands of robotic fulfillment devices throughout its vast network of warehouses.

A number of automobile manufacturers and other players are also preparing to release fully automated cars in the next couple of years. Google’s Self-Driving Car Project has been a major catalyst for legislation to allow autonomous vehicles on the road. Once released, these cars WILL effectively become the first commercially available robots on the consumer market.

It won’t be long as well before our everyday shopping experience is integrated with robotics. Wal-Mart recently announced it’s working with a firm to develop an automated shopping cart that helps customers find items on their lists and saves them the trouble of pushing a heavy cart through the store and parking lot.

Students looking at robotic device

3. Robotics Requires New Skill Sets & Business Models

The role of entrepreneurship in the emerging robotics economy will also require new skills, approaches, and competencies about doing business. Traditional methods and models will not be enough to compete in this new space.

Increasingly, businesses of all sizes will need skills and subject matter expertise in areas such as open source hardware, digital manufacturing, machine learning, cognitive computing, and a host of digital technologies.

Additionally, the whole value proposition of business will change towards what Gartner Research calls “autonomous business.” This is defined as a business “where goal-seeking, self-learning artificial agents pursue the optimization of business outcomes on their own initiative.” What this means is that tasks once ascribed to humans will be performed more efficiently by smart machines.

“Robopreneurs” will be the ones who recognize those jobs that can be outsourced to machines and will then follow-up by taking steps to replace those impacted tasks with less routine human work.

What Are Your NEXT STEPS?

Robotics will bring a tsunami of changes in the next several years to all aspects of life as we know it – the way we work, shop, travel, and much more. There is a tendency among brick and mortar companies to follow business as usual and to adopt new technology only after it’s time-tested. However, in the case of robotics the slow adoption strategy won’t work.

Global robotics is changing at lightning speed and the market impacts will be profound. If you’re a small business or startup here are some specific action items to start adopting today to ensure your organization is ready for the robotics revolution.

  • Hire a market strategist to gain insights on how to pivot towards becoming a robotics savvy business.
  • Don’t try to boil the ocean but find out how to start incrementally adapting your products and services to align with the demands of the global robotics market and then extend your reach to untapped segments. For example, if you’re a retailer then think about how retail drones will change the speed of the market. Setup some key performance indicators that can be adopted to measure your initial progress.
  • Adopt a content marketing approach by using blogs, podcasts, and videos to build a faithful online following you can leverage to promote your brand and drive sales. Become an information source on robotics by drawing your customers’ attention to the global impact this market will have on the way they do business.
  • Provide regular training and new opportunities for employees to “skill-up” on robotics and related technologies like machine learning and then let them leverage that new knowledge on the job in practical ways. Udacity offers a reasonably priced certificate in machine learning, and Coursera offers a robotics specialization course – both online.

So, what is your experience with robotics and how are you adapting your small business or startup to deal with this emerging global market? If you have any questions or comments about your journey I’d appreciate hearing more. Please contact me at jeffrey@internetofroboticthings.com.

6 Reasons Why Building a Business is Hard (and Why It Should Be)

Shark Tank’s Lori Greiner points out that “Entrepreneurs are the only people who will work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week.” Of course, the idea here is that anyone who takes the plunge and commits to the crazy amount of work of starting a business must be passionate about what they do. They’re choosing to remain in control of their own destiny, instead of being tied to the cubicle in some office job they hate. The trade-off, in other words, is low risk and low reward for high risk and high reward.

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Those extra 40 hours a week are the price of that freedom. For many, it’s well worth the cost as long as they can achieve their dreams. 80 hours pursuing something you love is 10X better than 40 hours in something you hate any day of the week.

Business building is very hard and comes with long days and nights, no vacations, and without the guarantee in the end that you’ll even get any new customers. What do you do then? Ratchet things up even further or throw in the towel? Gary Vaynerchuk and other successful entrepreneurs call this kind of relentless drive hustle (redefining a traditionally negative term into something useful).

The old adage also serves well here: “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.” Well, in fact, it does seem like everyone is starting a business these days . . . but it’s certainly not easy. Far from it! Another expression that comes to mind seems apropos here: “What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.”

Okay, so we understand that business building is hard, and intuitively we understand why. It’s a new path, there are tons of people doing it, masses of information on how to do it, and everyone wants to change the world, got it.

But there’s more to business building than just being the most arduous task you’ll likely ever do. We need to drill down deeper. Let’s take off the mystique about the difficult nature of launching a startup and get to the heart of why exactly it’s so hard and why you should expect the journey to be one long uphill battle with few initial returns.

1. Nothing Comes Easy

It’s a law of the universe that any new learning path or skill takes a significant amount of time to acquire. No one learned to ride a bike on the first try nor did anyone play “Chopsticks” at the piano out of the gate. Science has shown, in fact, that whenever the brain learns something new it changes in a substantial way.

It’s no different for launching a business. If this is the first time down that path, then there are a host of new things to learn – from signing up for web hosting to social media to networking and branding. It’s all a new game involving skills that need to be processed and adapted into our daily routine.

Freelancing sites like Upwork have made the process of outsourcing these tasks much easier than ever. But even then, it’s still important to understand elements of the technical lingo so you know what to request.

2. That Thing Called Money

Dealing with the lack of finances is probably the single hardest thing about launching and growing a business. The person who has planned and saved up for launching a business is a wonderful anomaly and should be congratulated, because this is really the best way to go. But the reality is that most people who bootstrap their business rely on loans and credit cards. And when things get really tough, such as going the first 3 months or more without a customer and without a way to pay the bills, then it really tests your mettle.

But there’s hope! Many have fought through and come out the other side to share the universal truth that “what didn’t kill them only made them stronger.” They have pushed through and found a way to make things work despite roadblocks and detours along the way.

3. We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know

There is certainly no cookie cutter approach to business success. Every startup is unique with different sets of conditions, markets, and talents. However, there are core principles that are essential for success, such as tenacity, having a great team, knowing your market, listening to a mentor, and focusing on the customer.

But unless you’ve already been down the road of business building before, you won’t know what to look for and will invariably fall flat on your face, double back, and lose time and money. It happens to everyone so don’t be overly concerned. It is just the price of admission to the greatest show on earth – your startup!

Fortunately, there is tons of easily consumable information out there on how to gain the upper hand in the battle for startup success.

4. The Competition is Fierce

The blazing rate of technology change over the past 8 years has meant a renaissance in the way people work and communicate. Innovation has become the new watchword, and anyone with a computer and a reasonable amount of creativity can spin up a successful business.

While the opportunities for launching a business have never been more plentiful, the reality is that everyone and their friend’s brother’s uncle is also doing the same. This means that the competition is obviously very high. Just remember that someone, somewhere in the world is working overtime to put you out of business.

5. Information Overload

Among other challenges, launching a startup has been described as drinking from a firehose. Everyone today is inundated with more information they know what to do with. There are more tools, technologies, and social media platforms on the market than ever before. The head-spinning experience can leave one in a daze.

The key then is to find a method to document the tools that are most critical to your work and move on. You’re never going to master everything. The truth is that unless you set boundaries, the unending supply of technologies on the market today will easily become a big distraction from getting your business launched.

6. It May Well Fail

While businesses failure rates are high, it’s not as gloomy as once thought. In fact, more recent stats from the Small Business Administration (SBA) indicate that nearly 78% of small business startups survive the first year and about 50% of all employer establishments survive at least five years.

Nevertheless, business failure rates are high enough that we need to take notice. Typical reasons for failures are poor planning and execution on the business strategy, poor team dynamics, insufficient capital, and failure to understand the market.

None of us are immune from tanking a business and that means we must continually learn to do more things right than wrong.

What’s Next?

If you’ve learned anything from this blog, then hopefully comes the realization that business startups are hard and that they’re meant to be for a reason. Learning a new skill takes time and energy. We’re not meant to learn how to play the piano in a day. It’s takes lots of practice. Likewise, starting a business takes a lot of sacrifices of time, money, and resources. But doesn’t that make the end goal worth it? Won’t it be all the more meaningful, once you cross that threshold and achieve the dream of being your own boss?

But then again, consider the alternatives! Going to a job that you don’t like is hard. Dealing with the long commute is painful, not to mention the mean boss and annoying coworkers. If you really stop to think about, life in general is full of challenges. You cannot escape that reality but you can decide how you’ll respond to circumstances. Will you be a victim or will you be victorious? The choice is yours.

If you need a sounding board to bounce off ideas or some advice about taking your business to the next level, feel free to contact me for a free 30-minute consultation. I’ll be happy to talk through your business strategy and help identify any blind-spots that may be holding you back.

 

 

 

Top 7 Growth Hacks for Building Your Business

Until only a few years ago, the idea of starting a business was out of reach for most people. Doing a startup was considered an exclusive move, and usually reserved for the privileged few who had the time and money to do so. The title “entrepreneur” was for those with an MBA, or at least the business experience to back it up.

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But nowadays things are different. Technology, tools, and an endless supply of online resources have made building your own business on the cheap within the reach of just about everyone. With books like The $100 Startup and Rework showing the way, opportunities for breaking free from the 9-to-5 are more plentiful than ever. Platforms like Upwork also have made subject matter expertise both accessible and affordable for those with limited budgets (which is just about everyone).

Make no mistake about it, business building has many rewards. but it’s also extremely challenging. There are no easy paths to startup success. Everyone and their uncle is launching a business today, which makes the playing field even more competitive.
But there are powerful techniques that you can adopt today to set yourself apart from the rest of the pack. These are not, of course, the only methods. But consider these as 7 tried and true “growth hacks” to take your business to the next level.

1. Get a Mentor

There’s nothing like a trusted mentor who can help you see the blind spots in your business model. Find a friend, colleague, or trusted business associate and buy them lunch in exchange for an honest perspective on your business. It’s really difficult to see yourself in the frame of your own picture. Getting another set of eyes on your business model is critical for your success.

If you’re not sure where to find a mentor, start attending a local Event Meetup in your community. It’s likely you’ll find someone who shares your passion but also has more experience.

2. Find Your Target Audience

There are so many moving parts involved in building a business that it’s easy to miss the forest from the trees. Make sure that you’re crystal clear about who your target market is.
Case in point revolves around Facebook Advertising. Facebook skews to an older demographic nowadays. This means that more people older than 35 are likely to engage with your Facebook Ad than people under 30.

So if you’re trying to reach millennials with your latest new social media app, then you probably want to be on Instagram and Snapchat instead.

3. Don’t Waste Excessive Amounts on Ads

When’s the last time you clicked a Banner Ad? Then why are you spending $100 a day on Facebook and Google AdWords? Before throwing money at ads, stop and think a minute about why you’re going to Facebook in the first place. Are you there to make a purchase? Likely not!

Most people go there to catchup with news and old friends. If you plan to run Ads on Facebook, start out with $5-10 a day. Split test a couple ads with these smaller amounts and determine from there which ones perform the best. After all, if your ads don’t convert at $5/day, what makes you think they will convert at $100/day? Facebook algorithms love money, so don’t blindly feed the machine.

4. Push Out High Quality Content

Content is still king and startups need to respect that by offering continuous, high quality information relevant to their niche. A great place to start is by reading Content Inc. by Joe Pulizzi. It’s really been a catalyst for a modern renaissance of content marketing techniques and technologies.

The idea here is that instead of focusing on the product first, as most businesses do, you instead focus on your target audience and early adopters by providing them with rich content. After picking a primary delivery channel such as a blog, podcast, whitepaper, or video, you deliberately stream content to build a following of customers that you can eventually sell to.

5. Ask These Two Critical Questions

The key questions to ask yourself are “what are you selling?” and “who are you selling to?”
Answering these correctly will help you validate your business model and make sure that you’re executing on your core strategy. Once you’ve answered who your target audience is and what you’re selling them, then your website and call to action (CTA) should correspond to this information.

In other words, don’t sell your free “How to prepare for retirement” eBook to millennials; they won’t care. Market to the over 50 demographic on Facebook and you’ll be in business.

6. Get Busy on YouTube

Build your YouTube following one subscriber at a time. Video today is where blogs were in 2005 and YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine. Setting yourself apart in your niche means posting regular vlogs based on keywords relevant to your niche. If you have a Software-as-a-Service company, then start posting video content relevant to your product. Tell a story about how you started the business, what lack you saw in the market, and how your product met the need. Start posting daily and watch people start to engage with your brand and service.

7. Just Do Something!

The biggest power play in business is execution. Doing something is better than nothing. The greatest cause of business failure is not poor ideation or lack of talent or bad management. The biggest cause of failure is NOT doing anything. People get so hung up on brainstorming, that they forget that putting sticky notes on walls is not execution.

Producing content is where you start. Writing blogs, posting videos on YouTube, Tweeting, uploading photos to Instagram, Snapchatting. This is where the execution happens. The more, the better!

What’s Next?

Now that you’ve read this blog, the next step is up to you. Avoid the temptation of just storing the information away, but rather devise a plan now to do something, anything just to take a step towards your goal.

The key is to promise yourself that you’ll take the next step TODAY. Don’t let another week or month go by without activity. The biggest cause for failure in business is analysis paralysis. Look, there’s never been a more ideal time to launch that idea you’ve always been dreaming about. If you’re not doing anything, then your competition in India or Silicon Valley is. Remember, someone somewhere is always improving, always executing on their ideas, and the more you wait the further behind you will fall.

If you need a sounding board or help getting to the next step, feel free to contact me for a free 30-minute consultation. I’ll be happy to talk through your business strategy and help identify any blindspots that may be holding you back.

3 Successful Entrepreneurs That Had Huge Failures

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When you put your time, money and heart into building a company, and it crashes and burns, it can be devastating. For some, the thought of putting it all on the line and trying again is too much. Also, according to the latest statistics, 9 out of 10 startups fail. But, many would argue that success doesn’t happen without failure. If you don’t get it right the first time, don’t worry. Neither did these 3 hugely successful entrepreneurs who have had enormous failures.

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