Not long ago, robots were viewed as a futuristic oddity with little relevance to ordinary life. But as the pandemic continues to challenge businesses and their customers, robotic technologies are quickly emerging with future-forward solutions to present-day problems. Early-on in the pandemic, Reuters reported that at least 25 different companies were ramping up robotics technology research and production to reduce human contact for health and safety. Investors are supporting those initiatives, too, with billions of dollars in new capital flowing into the robotics industry.
Food and Medicine Deliveries
The robotics company Nuro is using autonomous vehicle technology to perform business-to-home and B2B delivery services, which are in historically high demand. Prior to the pandemic only 3 percent of American households used grocery delivery services. But today more than 10 times that many use them on a regular basis. Nuro’s robotic vehicles are, for example, currently used in Houston to ensure safe and timely deliveries from Kroger, a leading supermarket chain, and are expected to soon deliver Domino’s pizzas. They are also delivering prescription medicines for CVS, and some robots do door-to-door deliveries along city sidewalks. Combined with contact-free payment solutions, these innovations make the whole shopping experience COVID-19 safe, every step of the way.
Supply Chain Robotics
Thanks to vastly improved technologies like 5G communication and the ability for robots to process language more accurately, humanoid robots are emerging as also extraordinarily useful for automated supply chain logistics. They can roam around while restocking and tracking inventory and even answer questions for customers. Meanwhile, robotic technology powers autonomous vehicles, each capable of carrying 70 tons of cargo, in major shipping ports worldwide. They quickly transfer shipping containers to and from ships and trucks, improving delivery times for the imported and exported goods and products needed to keep America’s businesses running smoothly.
Workplace Safety and Security
Robots are also used to monitor security and perform remote inspections at industrial plants, and to clean floors in retail spaces. That allows employees to spend considerably less time indoors where risk of virus transmission is greatest. Robots quickly and easily perform labor intensive repetitive tasks like palletizing merchandise, too, bringing value to manufacturing facilities and warehouse distribution centers. As a result, many businesses that had never before experimented with robots are now buying or leasing robotic equipment to help them with daily operations.
Labor Saving Support
The Giant Eagle supermarket chain, for instance, uses robots to manage inventory and stock shelves. That allows employees to focus on disinfecting and sanitizing the stores, and to spend more time assisting customers. Robots can also independently disinfect interior spaces, using sanitizing chemicals or ultraviolet light. That kind of technology can have a tremendous positive impact on places ranging from hotels and restaurants to schools and gyms. In some major hospitals, robots armed with computer tablets even help screen incoming patients. That no-contact process frees-up nurses while providing them with extra protection from COVID-19. Robots also enter patients’ rooms to monitor their vital signs without exposing healthcare workers to increased risk.