Sales in service robots for professional use will increase 12 per cent by the end of 2017 to a new record of 5.2 billion U.S. dollars. And the long-term forecast is positive too, with an expected average growth rate of 20 to 25 per cent in the period 2018 – 2020. That is the latest projection from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR).
“In terms of value, the sales forecast 2018-2020 indicates a cumulative volume of around 27 billion U.S. dollars for the professional service segment,” says Gudrun Litzenberger, general secretary of the IFR. “Robots for medical, logistics and field services are the most significant contributors.”
At the same time, the market for personal service robots which assist humans in their everyday lives is also progressing rapidly; it is projected that sales of all types of robots for domestic tasks – e.g. vacuum cleaning, lawn mowing or window cleaning – could reach an estimated value of around 11 billion U.S. dollars (2018-2020).
“Robots are clearly on the rise, in manufacturing and increasingly in everyday environments”, says Martin Hägele, IFR Service Robot Group. “The growing interest in service robotics is partly due to the variety and number of new start-ups which currently account for 29 per cent of all robot companies. Furthermore, large companies are increasingly investing in robotics, often through the acquisition of start-ups.”
European service robot manufacturers play an important role in the global market: about 290 out of the 700 registered companies supplying service robots come from Europe. North America ranks second with about 240 manufacturers and Asia third with about 130.
Further progress will rely on entrepreneurs taking up disruptive technologies and deploying them for new applications and markets. In the US, about 200 start-up companies are working on new service robots. The European Union plus Switzerland count 170 companies that are creating a new entrepreneurial culture for the service robotics industry – followed by Asia with 135 start-ups. Virtually all economies are attempting to foster a vibrant entrepreneurial environment and the service robotics industry has become one of the focus areas of their public policies.
Service robotics market overview
Robotics in professional applications has already had a significant impact in areas such as agriculture, surgery, logistics or public relations and is growing in economic importance. There is a growing demand to monitor our everyday surroundings which results in increased and difficult-to-manage workloads and data flows. To meet this demand, robots will play an even greater role in the maintenance, security and rescue markets.
Robotics in personal and domestic applications has experienced strong global growth with a limited number of mass-market products: floor cleaning robots, robo-mowers and robots for edutainment. Future product visions point to domestic robots of higher sophistication, capability and value, such as assistive robots for supporting the elderly, for helping with household chores and for entertainment.