There’s a lot of investment momentum surrounding robotics right now. A record number of robots were shipped to North American companies last year, with more non-automotive organizations such as food, consumer goods and life science companies installing robots than ever before. In fact, U.S. robot density is now more than double that of China, with the U.S. manufacturing industry reaching a density of 200 robots per 10,000 employees. Just last year, the global industrial robotics market was valued at $18 billion USD, and by 2024 the market’s projected to hit $41 billion.

Coupled with this momentum comes continued consumer anxiety about robots and their threat to (human) jobs. Robots have already permeated a variety of industries, replacing roles like that of the switchboard operator, film projectionist or toll collector. However as autonomous technology grows more advanced, the threat of robots replacing a higher volume of more nuanced jobs increases. Unsurprisingly, findings from Pew Research indicate that 72 percent of Americans are very or somewhat worried about a future where robots are capable of performing many human jobs.

Product Proliferation and Consumer Anxieties Have Created a Hype Storm

Aggressive investment growth and widespread concern about robots replacing humans has led many to believe autonomous systems are a lot further along than they really are. Complicating matters further, the makers of autonomous systems are at risk of losing sight of the original vision of robots helping humans do more. Rather than focusing on immediate, specific use cases, many robotics companies toil away building massive autonomous technology platforms that are too broad and all-encompassing, promising (unrealistically) to serve as a general-purpose platform for a wide range of future applications.

Prioritizing Immediate Needs and Industries Requiring Disruption is Key

To realistically deliver on the original vision of robotics, we need to focus less on the exciting and fear-mongering media headlines and instead prioritize building products that solve an immediate market need, help humans do their jobs better, and can be delivered today.

A perfect example of a company doing just that is Avidbots, a Canadian startup bringing concepts inherent to autonomous vehicles to the far more tractable challenge of automated commercial floor cleaning. Already servicing millions of square feet within hospitals, airports, schools and warehouses, Avidbots has deployed hundreds of its Neo floor-cleaning robots in 14 countries. Neo helps workers and employers by doing a dull, backbreaking and inefficient janitorial task that humans don’t want to do. Unlike most cleaning robots that follow a set path, Avidbots’ fully-autonomous robots use AI to learn about their environments as they clean, mapping buildings dynamically to avoid obstacles and determine the best routes. Through a sophisticated web app, Neo also provides custodial teams with detailed analytics to optimize cleaning processes, quality and coverage. In addition to cleaning large-scale public spaces such as malls and airports, Neo also operates in areas that restrict human access, like factory floors or power plants.

What’s particularly special about Avidbots is that the company designs and deploys its robots from the ground up, rather than attempting to retrofit legacy cleaning machines based on decades-old designs. With an underlying ability to autonomously navigate with high precision, Neo could also be used as a platform to deliver other services onto the same chassis. In fact, automated floor cleaning is just the start of what Avidbots’ systems can deliver; future product expansion will address other commercial and industrial pain points.


Avidbots Neo

How Next47 is Helping Advance the Avidbots Mission

We at Next47 are committed to helping advance the robotics industry so that humans are positively impacted within their lifetime. In addition to participating in Avidbots’ recent $24 million Series B, we’re leveraging the power of our ecosystem by introducing Avidbots to facility management customers in the U.S., supporting market entry outside of the U.S., assisting with supply chain challenges, and exploring financed rental models — all in our first 90-day sprint working together.

Automating Everything Isn’t the Answer

The truth is, we can’t and don’t want to boil the ocean and automate everything. The key, then, is better focusing our collective robotics efforts by finding critical pain points that can be addressed through automation and building products that customers can use and will pay for today. Furthermore, given the need to ensure such focused value delivery, a full stack, non-retrofitted approach is most often the winning robotics strategy. As such, we’re thrilled to support Avidbots in its mission and look forward to sharing more from our portfolio companies that are committed to helping humans do more.