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.

?business with csr

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.

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