How collaborative robotics revenue will reach $1.23 billion

While we continue to see reports about the growing fear of job loss due to robotics in the workplace, more industry analyst reports shed light on the apparent upside opportunities for vendors. ABI Research identified 'collaborative robotics' as one of the fastest growing market segments.

Small-to-Medium Businesses (SMBs) are driving the increased demand for these collaborative robots, as 'cobots' provide solutions that allow for a more flexible kind of manufacturing that makes no assumptions as to volume levels or types of products being manufactured.

Robotics technology market development

From 2016 to 2025, the global revenue of collaborative robotics shipments is set to reach a compound average growth rate of 49.8 percent -- that's compared to 12.1 percent for Industrial robots and 23.2 percent for commercial robotics.

The term ‘collaborative’ refers to human scale robotic systems that can share a workspace with humans, interact with humans while also moving independently from them, and can physically contact their co-workers safely.

This opens the value of robotics -- including strength, precision, and repeatability -- to a series of tasks that previously their bulk prohibited.

The collaborative robotics market is still young, with global revenues reaching about $292 million in 2017. However, by 2025, that figure is set to exceed $1.23 billion in global revenue, and hundreds of thousands of shipments.

This is being driven by demand for manufacturing solutions that don’t include large-scale investment in fixed automation or larger robotic arms. These include tasks like machine-tending, quality control, and light assembly.

The manufacturing sector is the current mainstay of collaborative robotics. According to the ABI assessment, SMBs within the manufacturing sector will be responsible for the explosive cobot growth going forward.

"Up until recently, a large percentage of SMB’s, particularly manufacturers, have missed out on many of the benefits of robotic industrial automation such as increased productivity, quality, and overall competitiveness," said Rian Whitton, research analyst at ABI Research. "Rapid change is underway."

Fuelled by growing demand, established industrial robotics companies and several new vendors are providing products and services specifically designed to satisfy the needs and support the culture of SMB’s – a sizable and underserved market.

SMBs require flexible automation solutions that can easily and quickly be adapted to meet shifting demands. They need systems that can be programmed easily and quickly and can support multiple types of automation tasks. Collaborative robots fit the bill for SMBs.

Outlook for robotic applications growth

Geographically, by far the largest market for collaborative robotics will be the Asia-Pacific region, with a projected 68 percent market share of shipments by 2025. Europe and North America will host 30 percent of shipments in the same year.

"Industrial robotics has been a critical component of advanced manufacturing for many decades, but with collaborative robotics, automation and cooperation between man and machine will move out of production onto the factory floor and into the warehouse," concludes Whitton.

How can operators benefit from the golden age of surging mobile traffic?

This article is brought to you in partnership with Huawei.

The mobile network is witnessing the upcoming arrival of an unprecedented golden age. However, this era holds both challenges and opportunities for operators. The rising mobile traffic is set to unlock business potentials, but will also put operators’ networks under huge pressure.

Traditional networks will struggle to bear the impact of surge in mobile traffic. During peak hours, operators’ networks are prone to be overloaded, resulting in declined network speed and poor user experience. Operators are faced with the challenges of enhancing network performance, increasing user satisfaction, and fully capitalizing on the increasing mobile traffic.

An international leading operator has taken the lead in enjoying the business success brought by the growth of mobile traffic. With the help of innovative technologies, this operator has stood out in this competition. In 2017, XL, a leading operator in Indonesia, partnered with Huawei to launch TechCity joint innovation project in the country’s second largest city Bandung. In this city, Huawei’s exclusive CloudAIR solution was debuted and then rapidly deployed on 1,400 sites. This significantly alleviated the network pressure, boosted network capacity, and improved user experience.

Stand up to the challenges, find the way out, and set an example for others

The issues facing XL’s mobile networks are even more challenging than those facing other operators due to the situations specific to Indonesia.

Indonesia has a population of approximately 250 million, while the number of mobile terminal users reaches 260 million. This means each person holds an average of more than one mobile phone. What’s more, young people constitute a relatively large part of Indonesia’s population. Such age distribution indicates huge momentum for the growth of mobile traffic. Authoritative statistics shows that data traffic has nearly been doubling in Indonesia every half year from 2015 to 2017.

Surging traffic demand leads to network congestion. Taking Indonesia Bandung as an example, the problem of slow speed appears frequently in the rush hour of data traffic hotspots, which seriously affects user experience.

Additionally, XL struggles with network capacity expansion. The two traditional approaches, namely obtaining additional spectrum or boosting spectrum efficiency. Unfortunately spectrum resources are particularly scarce for Indonesia’s operators, and the cost of spectrum leasing is excruciatingly high.

So XL hopes to refarm existing spectrum to boost spectrum efficiency and meet the rising demands for LTE spectrum brought by increasing LTE traffic. However, 2G subscribers continue to constitute approximately half of Axis’s (XL’s low-end brand) total users. The spectrum refarming must not lead to the decline in GSM traffic. Such restriction poses huge technical challenge for XL.

XL has figured out the best way to tackle all the above challenges. Its success sets an impressive example for other operators around the world.

Seek joint innovation to monetize business value

In March 2017, XL decided to team up with Huawei to kick off TechCity joint innovation. The aim was to eliminate the network capacity bottleneck via the application of innovative technologies and verification of new business models.

During several rounds of communications, Huawei obtained a clear understanding of XL’s pain points. These include high proportion of 2G users, heavy LTE load, low ARPU, high DOU, spectrum shortage, and high cost of spectrum leasing. To address these specific issues, Huawei proposed the GSM and LTE long-term coexistence strategy and suggested the CloudAIR solution.

Huawei CloudAIR is a network construction solution featuring spectrum cloudification. The 22.5 MHz resources on 1.8 GHz band are used to deploy GSM S333 and LTE 17.7 MHz. This approach substantially increases spectrum efficiency, expands LTE network capacity, and sustains GSM traffic, while incurring zero additional spectrum leasing expense.

The following three months saw multiple rounds of live network tests and business analysis by XL and Huawei. The test solution was verified. In October 2017, CloudAIR saw its first deployment in Bandung. Within a short period time, the solution was applied to 1400 sites across the island.

Thanks to its joint innovation with Huawei, XL cleared a series of hurdles and reaped business profits. The deployment of CloudAIR enabled pronounced growth in user experience and spectrum efficiency. The GSM services suffered no traffic decrease while the congestion on LTE networks was relieved. XL was also able to enjoy higher operational efficiency. Areas with CloudAIR saw 58.4% enhancement in user throughput, 21.7% improvement in cell capacity, and 5% growth in traffic.

Carry on with TechCity investment and speed up CloudAIR expansion

TechCity joint innovation allows Huawei to fully understand XL’s demands and offers tailor-made solutions. It also accelerates the implementation of cutting-edge technologies. Encouraged by the high business value of this new model, XL has decided to further expand its TechCity investment.

“Huawei CloudAIR solution not only boosted data traffic but also promoted XL’s brand image in Bandung. It also helped XL meet the strategic requirement of making more out of growing data traffic,” remarked Yessis D. Yosetya, XL’s CTO. “XL hopes to apply the solution in other key cities in Indonesia as soon as possible. This will help ease network capacity pressure, bringing XL greater business success.”

Cisco gets thumbs up from Portugal

Cisco has followed up a successful week in Spain by signing a memorandum of understanding with its neighbour Portugal.

The new agreement will see Cisco work with the Portuguese government over the next two years to ready the country for the digital economy. The brief is quite broad, but some of the highlights include improving economic growth, education, innovation, and competitiveness as well as social inclusion and quality of life.

“By accelerating the national digitization agenda, Portugal can increase GDP growth, create jobs, and improve digital inclusion for our people and businesses,” said António Costa, Prime Minister of Portugal. “We strongly welcome Cisco’s contribution to create a sustainable innovation ecosystem that will enable our country to better compete in the global digital economy.”

“Cisco is proud to partner with Portugal’s government, businesses, and citizens in their commitment to digitize the nation and become a European leader in digital transformation,” said Chuck Robbins, CEO of Cisco. “We are committed to helping accelerate the Portuguese ecosystem of talent, entrepreneurship, and innovation that is key to creating a digital Portugal, and can bring even greater value to the country.”

Looking at some of the specifics, Cisco will partner with Startup Portugal focusing on areas such as security, mobility, and Internet of Things. The US technology giant will also provide local start-ups with access to its European Venture Capital initiative and Incubation program to help accelerate business and expand internationally. The agreement will also see Cisco supply products and services to several ministries, with a focus on public administration modernization, health, justice, and defence.

Another area of interest will be the four-year Industry 4.0 plan launched by the Portuguese government recently. The plan focuses on tourism, transportation, cities, and regions, with the aim being to improve services to citizens, visitors, and businesses, as well as to help competitiveness and operational efficiency. Part of this plan will include work with Turismo de Portugal to take advantage of wifi with analytics to improve experience and attract more visitors to the tourist hotspots in Portugal.

A few questions have been asked of Cisco in the last couple of days, namely focused around how recent product releases which essentially undermine Ericsson’s place in the radio segment. The gloriously named ‘Multi-Vendor Open vRAN Ecosystem Initiative For Mobile Networks’ is a direct alternative to single-vendor RAN offerings, and does offer a bit of a slap to Ericsson. Many had speculated the partnership between the two was on shaky grounds, but with Cisco’s radio initiative it looks dead and buried. Can a co-operation continue when one half of the partnership is taking a swipe at the others core competency?

Cisco might be facing awkward questions regarding its partnership with Ericsson, but at least good news stories like this will deflect some of the attention.

Consumers not convinced by the price-point of new smartphones – report

The smartphone is central to our lives, but it doesn’t seem like we are being bought by the latest fads as easily anymore.

According to research from Counterpoint (first spotted by the Wall Street Journal), the idea of buying a refurbished or second-hand smartphone is becoming more attractive to consumers, while refreshment cycles are getting longer. Such news could not be worse for a segment which is struggling with profitability and sluggish sales already. The report indicates one in ten devices now being purchased are refurbished models.

Of course Apple is generally excluded from such misery, though there have been rumours that the new iPhone X didn’t meet internal expectations. This is a brand which is usually able to contort it customers into all sorts of uncomfortable positions, but it seems not even the iCultists could swallow the $1000 price tag. This might be a worry for other brands who don’t have the luxury and robust brand positioning of Apple.

According to the research, refreshment cycles are up from two years, pushing towards three, while additional research from Baystreet Research suggests Equipment Installment Plans could also be a contributor to the misery. As these payments are hidden in monthly plans the consumer is less aware of how much a new device actually costs. With telcos becoming less inclined to push the subsidized device model nowadays, more consumers are leaning towards buying devices outright and perhaps getting a shock at the price. Realistically, refurbished or second-hand devices are almost as good, while substantially cheaper. It seems consumers are starting to accept this trade-off.

The iPhone X at $1000 is very expensive, as is Samsung’s Galaxy S9 at $840 which was launched at MWC this year, but what do customers actually get. There are few revelations when it comes to new flagship devices so what is the point in spending such extortionate amounts of cash. Refurbished devices are pretty much the same, unless you are a photograph buff but we question how many people there are who care that much about exceptionally detailed photos and videos.

The slump device manufacturers are in is perfectly demonstrated by the euphoria at MWC this week. Samsung might have launched its device, but HMD’s re-release of the banana phone, grabbed a lot of attention. This is the second year in a row where nostalgia have triumphed over the new and adequately demonstrates our point.

When we were at the event, Heavy Reading Analyst Steve Bell pointed towards graphene batteries which can be charged quicker and last longer as possibly the next big buzz for devices, while Light Reading’s Dan Jones is keeping an eye on the on-device storage improvements. Improvement to batteries is long overdue in the space while improved storage could drastically change the way content is consumed, stored and cached. Both areas could drastically improve performance of the devices.

These are two areas which could reinvigorate the refreshment cycle and get consumers excited again, but right now the trends are going the wrong direction for manufacturers who want to charge more for less value.

Why ZTE believes AI automation will play a crucial role in the telecoms industry

MWC ZTE has a firm belief that, in the telecoms industry, AI automation has a crucial role to play - and that impending 5G networks will bank very much on the capabilities of AI for operational support as well as management of infrastructure and business functions.

The company also believes that ‘AI for operations’ represents a bigger opportunity for providers of telecom services to occupy a top position in the future market. 

These beliefs are at the root of the release of a whitepaper titled "Expediting AI for Operations in the Networks of Future" issued by ZTE in partnership with market research company IDC. In the whitepaper, ZTE and IDC projected that by 2020 enterprises that are capable of analysing all relevant data and delivering actionable information will get an extra $430 billion in productivity perks over their less analytical counterparts.

Sensing a hyper-connective future, ZTE invested many years of its research and development on big data and AI into the uSmartInsight platform to help its customers across numerous sectors speed up AI operationalisation. ZTE says that for operators of future 5G networks harnessing AI will become a compulsion. Among the three primary functional areas for main application prospects, network operation will be the immediate area for AI-based automation for value creation, while network configuration, orchestration and optimisation will derive the most benefit from AI in the 5G context.

In the meantime, at Mobile World Congress 2018, ZTE and InfoVista formed a strategic partnership for the general availability of an application-aware SD-WAN solution. The SD-WAN solution provides a single unified branch gateway which integrates routing, overlay, zero-touch management and service orchestration from ZTE with InfoVista’s application visibility, application QoS control, application session routing and WAN optimisation.

2018 was the year sh*t got real for MWC

The imminence of 5G seems to have concentrated the minds of many Mobile World Congress attendees and about time too.

We observed at the start of the week that conversations seem to have taken a more focused, practical turn and our subsequent experiences served to reinforce that impression. Of everyone is still desperate to prove their 5G credentials and tell anyone who will listen how on top the whole situation they are, but this year they often did so by talking up specific products and initiatives rather than just giving good PowerPoint.

The big kit vendors all seemed to have put extra effort into their stands. Ericsson’s displays and demos were more lavish and eye-catching than previous years and Nokia finally joined them and Huawei in taking over half of a hall and its stand was a major upgrade. But perhaps the most symbolic piece of MWC virtue-signalling was from Qualcomm (pictured), which went all in on 5G at its massive stand, to the apparent exclusion of absolutely everything else.

Perhaps this was why there seemed to be so little actual news at the show. Getting a bit better at the stuff that will eventually enable you to exploit the opportunities presented by 5G and IoT doesn’t exactly lend itself to punchy headlines. It was almost like people had decided they were too focused on actually doing stuff to bother with trivia such as news. Not a thought spared for sensation-starved hacks.

It doesn’t help that the smartphone sector is so utterly devoid of meaningful innovation these days. Mainstream media tends to obsess about gadgets at a show that is far more focused on networks and other dry B2B fare. Samsung came back to the show this year but, by all accounts, the Galaxy S9 was little more than a couple of component upgrades over the previous one.

As we discussed on our special podcast recorded at the show, for hard news this is probably one year early, with the first 5G smartphones expected to be unveiled at MWC 2019. So our initial take on this year’s MWC is that it represented the bridge between the wishful thinking of the past and the actual substance of the future.

Innovation on call? Why it’s time for telcos to differentiate

With a fast-developing tech revolution forcing major changes on the telco industry, it’s a focus on customer experience that will determine whether or not the big incumbents can stay relevant.

A digital mindset runs deep in the telco industry, who have been at the forefront – or even the conduit for – many of the digital services that have reshaped our world. Ironically, many of these have in turn threatened or cannibalised incumbent telco revenue streams. ‘Over-the-top’ (OTT) services – such as WhatsApp, Skype, Google Hangouts and Viber – have mastered user-friendly interfaces and focused on delivering what mobile customers want – a free way to make calls and media-rich messaging.

What they lack, however, is the holistic customer proposition that telcos have. Or could have, if they seize the opportunity to make full use of their market position. The continuity of service that arises from monthly contracts and pay-as-you-go services gives an opportunity to develop brands that go well beyond the immediacy of a single-service UI, no matter how cute. The reach and breadth of telco services can be a foundational element in developing omnichannel brands that customers will be proud to be a part of. Unfortunately, telcos are some way off, as shown in our recent survey about customer attitudes to their providers: 



Breaking free of this ‘utility’ label is going to take customer-focused transformation, alongside strategic development (or acquisition) of new capabilities. A complicating factor for today's telecom market is simply that consumer expectations are rapidly rising, and their behaviour is less and less predictable. As with many other sectors, telcos are finding that they cannot rely on historical data to understand customer behaviour and meet their needs. It’s not just expectations that are growing either: in a 2017 report, McKinsey suggested telco providers can expect an additional one billion middle-tier customers, mainly in emerging markets, by 2025. Unless telcos can adapt and meet the demands of their customers, the door remains open for OTT services to nibble off existing revenue streams. Or perhaps to straight-up eat the lot.

Meeting rising customer expectations

Much can be achieved by improving the basics, which also has to mean instilling a continual improvement mindset. But what are the basics in 2018? Developing more personalised experiences with data-led tech will help. This way, you’re improving the delivery of customer service – and how those customers feel about it. A recent Econsultancy report showed how, increasingly, consumers are turning to private channels to share info about brands and to interact with them. This trend has big implications for all kinds of branding and marketing but, for telcos in particular, the growing desire for personalised and conversational interaction is both threat and opportunity. In other words, if you and your competitors are seen as a utility… all the more reason to invest in and develop the kinds of interfaces that can show you have more to offer.

Diversifying and adding value

Acquiring other companies, or making strategic alliances, offer another way to provide added value. With such a central, if unloved, position in their customer’s lives, telcos are well-placed to partner with all types of content providers. For mobile networks especially, a long history of providing the platform for consumer access to third-party content and digital services ought to point the way: get serious about consumer data and personalised services, and find partners who share that ambition. Video subscription partnerships are leading the way – Ovum predicts that carrier-billed subscription video on demand (SVOD) revenues will hit $4.6bn in 2022, up from $0.8bn in 2017. But smart home services, IoT and personalised transportation are all on the rise.

The message is clear: telcos need to transform to survive, even if this means moving away from traditional business models. The key differentiator is customer experience. Those who build new services around the customer, unlocking data to provide seamless, personalised experiences, will find themselves best positioned for success. And to maintain that success, they will need to embrace constant change – and keep a look out for the next wave of disruption.

Editor's note: Find out more about the research here.

Regulators are behind the curve and there’s no coming back

It isn’t unusual for commentators to pass snide comments about regulators in the technology world, and unfortunately we are not going to reverse this trend here.

One of the conversations we’ve been having while stalking the halls of Mobile World Congress this year is whether the regulators will ever be relevant. The regulators have always been playing catch-up and it comes to the technology world, but we can’t see any way this trend can be reversed – the gap is only going to get bigger.

Most people will point the pace of change for this gap, but we aren’t too sure. After speaking to various people under the promise they wouldn’t be quoted, the truth emerged. Yes, the technology world is moving fast but the competence of those who are in charge of the regulations is seemingly lacking.

Here’s the theory. If you are a super intelligent engineer, you start your own company and make millions. The next tier down go to work for the super vendors who are pushing the trends. Those who can’t get a job with the vendors work for the operators, and if you can’t get a job at any of the above you go work for an industry watchdog. On the rung below the regulators are MPs, but that is another story.

When you combine the speed of change and the breadth of applications which need to regulated, the picture becomes a bit clearer. To make sure these rules are competent, timely and future-proof, the job requires best in class individuals. Unfortunately the people who are staffing the offices wouldn’t be considered top of their field.

This is simply the nature of the public sector, as the salaries are never going to be able to compete with the private sector. The top-end of the industry are always going to be lured by big pay cheques, but the work won’t be attractive to these individuals either. The talent leaving the world’s top universities want to work with cutting-edge technologies and have a notable impact on the world, they do not want to become paper pushers in a bland public sector office, drinking bad coffee and writing rules. This is not an appealing image.

Regulators are behind the times and slow to react to changes in the industry. Unfortunately this is only going to get worse moving forward.

Huawei Launches the Industry’s First 5G Microwave Equipment at MWC 2018

[Barcelona, February 28, 2018] At MWC 2018, Huawei Commercially launched the industry’s first 5G microwave equipment and successfully completed the equipment PoC testing with Vodafone. The core features of the Huawei 5G microwave is bringing breakthrough in resolving the bottleneck of large bandwidth and low latency. The equipment can efficiently transmit 4G and 5G services in mobile backhaul scenarios where fiber resource is unavailable. This will promote the development and application of microwaves in 5G bearer networks.

In recent years, the world has witnessed the rapid development of mobile Internet and the Internet of Things (IoT), making 5G become an industry focus. 5G networks aim to provide a 100+ Mbps experience to users anytime and anywhere, through base stations with a bandwidth of about 2 to 5 Gbps. In addition, some new applications require an end-to-end latency fewer than 10 ms, with a transport latency of no more than 5 ms.

The industry’s first 5G microwave launched by Huawei uses technologies including multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO), carrier aggregation (CA), 8KQAM modulation, and super dual band microwave by combining traditional frequency and E-band frequency to achieve transmission bandwidth up to 10 Gbps. Using Huawei’s new-generation chips and optimization algorithms, the 5G microwave reduces single-hop latency from hundreds of microseconds to tens of microseconds, much lower than the latency requirements of 5G bearer networks. This equipment uses an innovative modular antenna to achieve dual polarization without the need to change the dish. It could support 10G IDU that requires only board replacement but no chassis replacement. This protects the legacy investment of carriers as they evolve towards 5G.

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Richard Jin, President of Huawei Transmission Network Product Line, speaking at Huawei Network Global Innovation Launch Conference

Richard Jin, President of Huawei Transmission Network Product Line, said, “Huawei has been dedicated to the research and innovation of the microwave technology. The 5G microwave equipment launched by Huawei features large bandwidth, low latency, smooth evolution. It will better promote the development of 5G services and meet carriers’ requirements for more new 5G commercial applications in the future.”

MWC 2018 runs from February 26 to March 1 in Barcelona, Spain. Huawei is showcasing its products and solutions at booth 1J50 in Fira Gran Via Hall 1, booth 3I30 in Hall 3, and the Innovation City zone in Hall 4. For more information, please visit http://carrier.huawei.com/en/events/mwc2018.

About Huawei

Huawei is a leading global information and communications technology (ICT) solutions provider. Our aim is to build a better connected world, acting as a responsible corporate citizen, innovative enabler for the information society, and collaborative contributor to the industry. Driven by customer-centric innovation and open partnerships, Huawei has established an end-to-end ICT solutions portfolio that gives customers competitive advantages in telecom and enterprise networks, devices and cloud computing. Huawei’s 180,000 employees worldwide are committed to creating maximum value for telecom operators, enterprises and consumers. Our innovative ICT solutions, products and services are used in more than 170 countries and regions, serving over one-third of the world’s population. Founded in 1987, Huawei is a private company fully owned by its employees.

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