centre operators in a difficult position as to which technology to adopt in the future. This suggests that system interoperability and ease of integration with an existing automated system will become important in the future as operators do not want to be blind-sided again.

PICKING MOBILE ROBOTS TO DOMINATE AMRS? Picking or grasping technology is an essential component of warehouse automation. Today, many firms and research groups are deploying deep learning to enable robots to pick novel and irregularly-shaped items rapidly and with high success rates. To this end, various strategies to data collection/annotation and to DNN training are being followed. A limited number of firms have

The trend of investment in and acquisition of mobile robotic companies seeking to automate the movement of goods within warehouses, fulfilment centres, and manufacturing facilities is still rising


nly in recent months, we have seen three notable activities: Amazon,

Shopify, and Teradyne acquired Canvas Technology, 6 River Systems, and AutoGuide, respectively. In this article, IDTechEx discuss some notable acquisitions whilst considering relevant technology and market trends. Shopify acquired 6 River Systems for

$450M (60 per cent cash) which represents a huge multiple probably in excess of 20-23. 6 River systems had previously raised $45M, and in the summer of 2019 their robots were deployed in 30 customer sites (some using the 8-robot start kits and some having as many as 50 robots in a building). It did have a strong sales pipeline which could have resulted in >500 robot unit sales in 2020. However, this uptick in sales on its own does not justify the valuation. 6 River also had an interesting

technology. The majority (70 per cent or so) of its 150-person team were focused on the software aspects. Within the software team, the smaller sub-team focused on autonomy algorithms and the larger sub-team on cloud-based fleet and task management software. On the autonomy side, 6 River used

both lidars and cameras. The lidar map, built during the initialisation phase,


would be curated by engineers, uploaded onto the cloud, and used by the fleet within that specific environment. Camera technology could also enable it to detect and classify objects, thus achieving more responsive path planning algorithms. On the higher-level software, they had developed algorithms to optimise the movement of the fleet to achieve reliability and speed in fulfilling multi- item requests. They could also share learnings amongst the entire fleet via the cloud, setting in place a learning loop that could enable the algorithm to be constantly improved. These technology choices - with regards to both autonomy and cloud-based fleet/task management - placed 6 River in a good position in the short and long terms. Shopify was motivated to make this

acquisition as it had in June 2019 announced the Shopify Fulfillment Network. 6 River’s vertically integrated full-solution approach allowed Shopify to bring the entirety of a key strategic competence inhouse. The technology will likely be initially rolled out at select 3PLs before Shopify puts in place its own infrastructure. The taking off the market of another

mobile robotic company through acquisition will put third part fulfilment

Picking or grasping technology is an essential component of warehouse automation

integrated picking arms on mobile platforms. Today, these mainly picked box-shaped items in known environments. However, technology progress will bring these technologies to more varied items. It will also allow better integration of the robotic arm with the mobile platform. We forecast that picking mobile robots

able to pick regularly shaped items will be in the learning and low volume deployment phase until 2024. Thereafter the sales will pick up. However, only after 2030, we forecast significant annual sales volumes. As for robots able to pick irregularly shaped items, we consider that the development and low-volume deployment phase could last until 2030. In the longer term though, we forecast that 36 per cent and 38 per cent of AMRs in warehouses sold in 2040 will be able to pick regular - as well as irregular- shaped items, respectively. This points towards a major technology transformation, requiring automation beyond just autonomy of movement. The report “Mobile Robots,

Autonomous Vehicles, and Drones in Logistics, Warehousing, and Delivery 2020-2040” provides a comprehensive analysis of all the key players, technologies, and markets. It covers automated as well as autonomous carts and robots, autonomous material handling vehicles such as tuggers and forklifts, autonomous trucks, vans, and last-mile delivery robots and drones. rch-report/mobile-robots- autonomous-vehicles-and-drones-in- logistics-warehousing-and-delivery-2 020-2040/706


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