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Robotics has been tipped to be an integral component of the fourth industrial revolution with predictions claiming it will disrupt many industries across the world.
According to a Statista report, the worldwide robotics market is projected to reach US$498.6 billion in revenues in 2025, up from US$39.3 billion in 2017.
With that in mind, here the Investing News Network provides a comprehensive look at robotics with an overview of the subject and where it is headed in the future.
What is robotics?
However, robotics as a field involves several subsets with related areas like automation and artificial intelligence (AI).
Although both automation and robotics have been used interchangeably, these terms have certain differences.
While automation can be defined as the process of using technology to carry out specific tasks, not all robots are designed for automation. However, most robots — especially the ones used in industries — are designed for the process of automation.
As Junji Tsuda, president of the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) puts it, “robots evolve with many cutting edge technologies.”
“Industrial robots are a crucial part of the progress of manufacturing industry,” Tsuda said.
In particular, the automotive industry has emerged as the largest sector to use industrial robots as it has been said the manufacturing of cars have become more complex in recent years. IFR noted that various manufacturers have embraced automated solutions using robots to finish “substantial portions” of manufacturing.
The electronics/electrical and metals industries are the other largest users of these industrial robots.
Although industrial robots represent one dimension of this vertical, robotics as as a whole includes a number of other branches, including: unmanned aerial vehicles, autonomous cars (or self-driving cars), surgical robots and nanorobotics.
Unmanned aerial vehicles — or drones as it’s commonly called — is a field covering aerial robotics with its initial use being military-related, while commercial applications have become increasingly popular. As CB Insights notes, applications of drones involve several sectors from military to gaming, and from fighting wars to forecasting weather.
Autonomous cars, or self-driving cars, are capable of detecting the surroundings with little or no human input. While the potential benefits of these autonomous vehicles includes increased mobility and reduced costs, their problems rely on legal framework and its capabilities, such as the safety of passengers.
As compared to other branches of robotics, surgical robotics are comparatively more matured with the technology developed for many surgeries including cardiac, spinal and endoluminal.
Despite being an emerging field, nanorobotics or nanobots are increasingly becoming popular in the medical field. Nanorobotics is the field associated with the tasks for producing machines at nanoscale sizes.
Additionally, there are robots which are formed as a subset of robotics and AI that are capable of performing complex tasks while also providing companionship and entertainment.
Sophia, the AI robot developed by Hanson Robotics, is a prime example of AI and robotics coming together to form a human-like robot. Sophia was granted Saudi Arabian citizenship and has made numerous public appearances across the globe.
In January 2019, the 2019 World Economic Forum (WEF) conference was held in Davos, Switzerland, where over 100 government and business leaders attended. The WEF conference had an overall theme of “Globalization 4.0: Shaping a Global Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”
Klaus Schwab, executive chairman of the WEF said at the opening ceremony that the Globalization 4.0 has to be more human centred.
“We are now in some ways in a battle between robots and humankind,” Schwab said. “We don’t want to become slaves of the new technologies.”
While the theme of automation resonated throughout the event, the New York Times reported that several corporate executives at the event have bet big on machines to replace humans.
In its Future of Jobs report, WEF said that half of all companies think that automation will reduce their workforce by 2022 with 75 million jobs set to be displaced. However, it was also said that more than 133 million jobs would be created as a result of automation, but would have be shared between humans, machines and even algorithms.
Although several firms have predicted diverse reports on the job loses with the deployment of robotics and automation, Dimitar Raykov and Mubashar Iqbal created a site Will Robots take my job for this purpose. The site predicts a likelihood of a position replaced by robots.
In November 2018, Transparency Market Research in a report said that the global robotics market is expected to reach a value of US$147.26 billion by 2025. The firm said that the robotics market would witness an annual compound growth rate of 17.4 percent by 2025.
Ways to invest in robotics
With such growth predicted across the robotics industry, and with companies betting on robotics automation, investors certainly have plenty of ways to consider investing in the sector, including:
For those that are new to the space, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are a popular choice for investors as it allows exposure to an entire industry rather than one single company.
There are five ETFs in the robotics space, including: Robo Global Robotics & Automation ETF (ARCA:ROBO), Global X Robotics & Artificial Intelligence ETF (NASDAQ:BOTZ), First Trust NASDAQ Artificial Intelligence and Robotics ETF (NASDAQ:ROBT), Direxion Robotics, Artificial Intelligence & Automation Index Bull 3X Shares (ARCA:UBOT) and iShares Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (ARCA:IRBO).
For those looking to invest in a specific company, some involved in this sector include: Cognex (NASDAQ:CGNX), iRobot (NASDAQ:IRBT), Mazor Robotics (NASDAQ:MZOR), Rewalk Robotics (NASDAQ:RWLK) and Rockwell Automation (NYSE:ROK).