Is It Too Soon to Invest in the Internet of Robotic Things?

New technologies come and go, regardless of whether people consider them innovative or exciting. Some of them have staying power, while others disappear into the abyss as if they were nothing more than an afterthought. Because the marketplace is so fast-moving, it’s difficult to determine what to invest in and when.

That’s precisely the case with IoRT, or the Internet of Robotic Things. The niche derives its name from the Internet of Things and the Industrial Internet of Things, both of which involve smart, connected devices and sensors. Like anything internet-connected, robotic “things” can do more of the same. They continuously collect, process and transmit data, as well as offer a variety of connected functionalities — such as remote access. The technology also paves the way for further augmenting systems through compatible tools like AI, machine learning, big data systems and more.

Markets and Markets predicts the IoRT market will be worth nearly $21.44 billion by 2022. We’re not that far off, which means we should start seeing its adoption ramp up. Just because a market is on the rise, however, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best time to invest, particularly for an enterprise operation.

We are becoming increasingly dependent on robotics, especially in manufacturing. But the question remains: What role do smart, “connected” robots play? Who’s already using them, and how? What’s the outlook of that rollout? Is it promising, or is it something everyone should wait to implement?

IoRT in Manufacturing

In many factories and plants, robotic systems aren’t just about automation — they’re also essential for eliminating dangerous environments and situations. For example, tasks that involve human workers repetitively lifting heavy supplies or components and putting them onto a conveyor belt or feeding them into a machine have a prolonged impact on their bodies. Even with proper support, the stress of the job can cause short-term injuries, as well as deteriorate parts of their body in the long term. Many are familiar with what happens to your knees or back when you’re lifting heavy objects day after day.

More than a million Americans work in a warehouse facility, and roughly 51,550 workers get injured or killed on the job every year. Implementing advanced robotics can prevent many of those injuries — even deaths. The risk is higher in facilities or operations that do not use such robotics.

IoT allows them to interface with other nearby equipment and machines, but also to interact with their human counterparts. Think collaborative or cooperative robots that work alongside human laborers, as opposed to replacing them altogether. Many high-profile manufacturers are already doing this, improving working conditions and boosting efficiency for their operations.

IoRT in Logistics

Outside of manufacturing, yet still related to the supply chain, is the logistics and order fulfillment section of the market. Internet robotics come into play here not just in terms of boosting efficiency and capability, but also improving the working conditions for the human workers. Much like in manufacturing, smarter robots work alongside their human counterparts. An automated storage tool might follow one worker around the warehouse floor, carrying heavy goods and shipments. Another might operate as a computerized forklift, pulling pallets or items from on high.

Amazon is the best-known proponent of this kind of technology, and they actively use devices like collaborative robots and smart shelving systems. These devices help in the order picking and retrieval process, primarily because Amazon’s warehouses are so extensive. Manual, human-only fulfillment would take an incredibly long time, as workers would need to traverse the space to find goods and then move them to the appropriate areas. The company is even taking all this a step further, dabbling in drone-based delivery in certain local markets.

IoRT in Consumer Electronics

It seems a tad silly at first to consider the consumer electronics side of things. That’s especially true when it comes to talking about highly capable, internet-ready robotics. What can consumer tech do that’s so great? When you look at the kinds of devices that are hitting the market, it becomes immediately apparent there is plenty of innovation.

Consider smart or robotic vacuums, for example. On the surface, something so simple seems almost ridiculous. But these devices incorporate a wide variety of sensors, impact-measuring tools and advanced software to navigate the home, sans human command. They can move about a residence cleaning up various spills and debris, then roll back into a charging dock when their battery is low. It’s almost exactly the kind of technology in use for Amazon’s warehouse robots — though Amazon’s tech is slightly more advanced.

Imagine if smart voice assistants like Alexa or Google Assistant had access to a robotic arm. They could easily do something like preparing and cooking food for a modern family. Indeed, they could take over many household chores, like laundry, mowing the lawn or even working on the family car.

What’s the Takeaway?

These are just three, fairly early examples of real-world IoRT applications. As with the IoT in general, it’s easy to see how promising and beneficial the technology can be. In only a few years, Amazon has amassed a robot army of 45,000 strong, and that number is still growing. They wouldn’t be doing that if they didn’t see efficiency and output gains.

Ultimately, the takeaway is that now is the perfect time to invest in the Internet of Robotic Things. There is still some time before it grows to dominate the marketplace and it certainly warrants more research and training in the next few years. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s skyrocketing in popularity. Surely, the competition will be considering adopting IoRT if they haven’t already incorporated the technology.

Why Your Company Should Be Branding on the Internet

How Strategic Branding Can Help your Business

One way to stand out from the competition and make a mark on the internet for your business is through strategic branding. You’ve likely noticed branding via offline platforms, which is when companies use a tagline or some other identifying tactic to keep the brand in the mind of consumers. Think about some of the billboards you pass on a typical day, for example. However, branding on the internet is an entirely different game.

With so many different choices on methods for branding online, it can be difficult to know where to start. Fortunately, there are some tried-and-true ways to brand online that will benefit your business and not cost you much out of your overall marketing budget.

  • Develop a Street Team

Street teams originally started out as a way for the music industry to promote artists, but has developed into a method that all types of businesses use. About 33 percent of consumers say they trust a message from a company, which isn’t great, but 90 percent of consumers trust a recommendation from someone they know, even if they just know the person in passing.

This is where your street team comes into play. You should have a database of fans who will go out and tell others about your company and products. This can include social media influencers, people who have been customers for many years and brand ambassadors who you send free products in exchange for their word-of-mouth advertising.

Red Bull utilizes a street team/brand ambassadors to get the word out about its product. The way it has implemented its strategy is to have tiers within the team all the way down to student ambassadors who will recommend the product to their friends.

  • Content Marketing

91 percent of B2B marketers use content marketing to promote to potential clients, making it one of the most popular B2B online marketing methods. You’ve probably heard that content is king, and in some ways, this still holds true.

However, you have to ensure the content speaks to your target audience and provides some value to them. Gone are days where businesses could keyword-stuff a page, drive traffic and find success. Today’s savvy business owners expect and demand value for their time.

  • Make Connections

Small businesses need a convenient way to get active online and begin building that brand image. One key thing is figuring out how to connect with other small businesses, but statistics show that businesses with better listings receive as much as 347 percent more searches than those with subpar listings. A company called Manta helps with Google AdWords placement, figuring out SEO for local listings, social media timing, online reviews and preparing for mobile search traffic.

One example of a company using this platform is Mericle Commercial Real Estate Services. The company specializes as a developer of industrial sites and office buildings, so the ability to connect with other businesses is a real help.

  • Social Media

Get everyone in the company versed in how to use social media to promote the business and then allow those who seem to be savvy to promote on your behalf.

Studies show that leads that are generated by employees via social media are about seven times more likely to have high conversion rates. The key is training employees on what to say and what not to say or to simply ask them to retweet and share.

  • Customer Service on Social Media

Every day, there are 2.1 million negative social media posts about U.S. brands, which means people are very likely to go online and voice their complaints. Since your goal is to please your customer and show others you care about your customers, it is a smart move to hire customer service specialists to handle social media complaints. The reps simply reach out to those complaining and offer to fix the issue.

JetBlue airlines is an excellent case study of how to use social media to respond to your customers in a pleasing way. When customers complain, it immediately responds, asks for flight info and provides an update.

  • Persistence Pays

A person has to see your branding approximately five to seven times before they remember it, as a rule of thumb. Of course there are exceptions to that rule, but it goes to show that you need to put your eggs in more than one basket when it comes to online marketing. Think about where your target demographic hangs out online. If most of them are on Pinterest and a specific crafting site, then that is where you’ll advertise, as well as by using AdWords with a similar keyword range.

  • Mobile-Friendly Emails

The number of people using mobile devices to access emails has risen by 180 percent over a three-year period. With more and more people using their mobile devices to get online, it is a smart practice to take those emails you’ve collected and send out a message here and there. You can offer stories about your company, discounts, free shipping, customer testimonials, etc.

Groupon sends out emails several times a week that are segmented to offer specials that particular group of subscribers would be interested in. This highly targeted form of advertising has been quite effective for the site. Those emails are also mobile friendly and can be easily read on a personal computer or a smartphone.

If your company isn’t focusing on branding online yet, then you can see why it is vital that you do. You can easily expand your customer reach by doing online marketing. The key is to be smart about where you spend your marketing dollars. Even though online marketing is a fraction of the cost of traditional print advertising, you can still waste a lot of money if you don’t go into it with a very specific strategy and marketing plan.

Lexie Lu is a freelance UX designer and blogger. She enjoys researching the latest design trends and always has a cup of coffee nearby. She manages Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner