The innovative edge of the economy is where societal wealth and further opportunities are developed most abundantly. This interesting piece in Bloomberg Business week looks into the burgeoning service-robot industry and early American leadership. From Brian Bremner of Bloomberg Businessweek:
Five decades after Unimation’s debut, just as President Barack Obama has declared another Sputnik moment to spur U.S. competitiveness, the nation’s robotics industry is enjoying a revival. When global robotics executives gather in Chicago from Mar. 21-24 for Automate 2011, their annual industry convention, a healthy delegation of U.S. companies will be strutting their stuff alongside Germans, Japanese, and South Koreans.
True, big multinationals such as Swiss-based ABB (ABB) and Fanuc of Japan still dominate the global market for industrial, or manufacturing, robots, now worth $12 billion, according to the Frankfurt-based International Federation of Robotics (IFR). But leadership of the larger and faster-growing market for service robots, a sector IFR pegs at $13 billion worldwide, is up for grabs. This business encompasses robotic applications for industries such as defense, space, health care, business logistics, and consumer products, among other markets. And U.S. companies clustered in Boston, Pittsburgh, and Silicon Valley are very much in contention.
The service bot market is expected to double in size by 2013, and of the 200 or so top companies, nearly 70 are in the U.S., twice as many as are in Germany or Japan, according to IFR. “We are world leaders in service robots,” says Colin Angle, chief executive officer of Bedford (Mass.)-based iRobot, which makes the Roomba and Scooba floor cleaning machines and the PackBot, a robot that can search caves and help with bomb-disposal missions.