However, there is one technology that has flown under the radar yet is poised to make just as big of an impact – exoskeletons.
By 2028, global Exoskeleton revenues will reach $5.8 billion, with hundreds of thousands of active exoskeletons being deployed around the world.
Augmentation Over Automation
While most robots focus on automation, exoskeletons can help human workers by enhancing safety and productivity, especially in the industrial space.
To that end, organizations such as NASA, Boeing, and GM have already started deploying exoskeletons and making them a standard part of their protective equipment guidelines. Toyota is another company betting big on Exoskeletons, as they have deployed hundreds of suits from Levitate Technologies in plants around the United States.
Passive Vs. Powered Exoskeletons
There are two distinct types of exoskeletons – passive and powered. Passive exoskeletons do not have any power source, and they serve mainly to increase strength and provide stability to end users. On the other hand, powered exoskeletons utilize some form of energy to power sensors, actuators, and other tools.
Most of the exoskeletons currently in use are passive. This is largely due to the fact that they are more affordable and that they address specific challenges or use cases.
The next step in the evolution of exoskeletons is to integrate them with the Internet of Things in order to capture data and provide insights to leadership teams. Eventually, exoskeletons will need to integrate with robotic arms, collaborative robots, and mobile robots through advanced location technologies, haptics, and gesture control.
Emerging Exoskeleton Providers
With an eye toward the future, two major powered exoskeleton suppliers are making inroads in the present. German Bionic Systems and Sarcos are staking out a foothold in the industrial market. GBS has developed an IoT platform and will ramp up production next year with the completion of their new factory, and Sarcos is beginning to test its heavy exoskeleton in military infrastructure through a slew of contracts with the U.S. government. The Japanese market is thriving through companies like Cyberdyne and Panasonic Atoun, while the opportunity presented by China is still in its infancy.
Steps To Success
The manufacturing industry is facing a unique set of challenges, including labor shortages and an aging workforce. While exoskeletons have the potential to help combat these issues, technology providers must make sure that companies can see the potential ROI of investing in the technology.
There must be a viable business model, increasing adoption of RaaS, and a demonstrable ability of both providers and end-users to draw insights from collected data. Establishing partnerships with the cloud providers and industrial platforms who will ultimately enable the value add-on needed to differentiate providers will also be key. Furthermore, organizations like the association for exoskeleton industries (VDEI) are important for developing standardization when it comes to best practices.
Our Exoskeletons for Industrial Use Cases report provides in-depth analysis on key market trends. Download it today.