What Do Service Robots Do?
As the global service industry continues to manage rapidly changing consumer trends and a deluge of external factors such as labor shortages, trade concerns, and supply chain interruptions, some are seeking new and cutting-edge technologies—such as service robots—as a solution.
The use of robotics technology for improving productivity and enhancing efficiencies in business isn’t a new idea. Industrial robots have been used in manufacturing and warehouses for nearly 50 years and are still used today. However, the notion of using robots specifically for assisting human workers in completing service-related tasks or helping customers get the best experience possible is relatively new, with the first service robots being implemented in only the last decade.
Despite their novelty, service robots are quickly becoming an essential part of business for service-focused companies in healthcare, hospitality, logistics, and retail that are looking for innovative ways to delight customers while boosting their bottom line.
How Service Robots Are Used in Different Industries
Robotics technology is used by businesses and organizations of all sizes in a variety of ways. Service robots are most commonly used to assist human employees in their daily tasks so they can focus on the most valuable customer- and patient-centric work.
In retail organizations, service robots help enhance and personalize the customer experience as well as improve in-store operations.
For example, several global retailers in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia are using the Simbe Tally autonomous service robot (AMR) to automate in-store retail operations. Using Intel® computer vision technology, Tally audits around 10,000 items in 30 minutes to provide near-real-time inventory information and insights to store associates, ultimately optimizing store execution and improving customer satisfaction.
Many retail companies seek out service robots to simplify and enhance their customers’ experiences. SM Supermalls, a chain of shopping malls in the Philippines, turned to New Era AI Robotic (New Era) to streamline and improve their visitor experience by deploying a fleet of voice-interactive, smart service robots powered by Intel® Pentium® Processor N Series and Intel® Core™ i5 processor U-Series. Guests can ask the AI-enabled robots engaging questions, get simple directions to a desired store location, or upcoming showtimes for the on-site movie theater. By leveraging the Intel® Distribution of OpenVINO™ toolkit, SM Supermalls also use their service robots to deliver tailored promotions and marketing to each customer while gaining deeper business intelligence through data collection.
In hotels across the globe, service robots are being used to enhance and personalize the customer experience. Interactive, AI-powered kiosks greet guests when they arrive, while service robots take guest luggage straight to their room to make the check-in process seamless and efficient. AMRs bring them room service, and humanoid robots act as their personal concierge.
Restaurants and Food Services
The food service industry is also taking advantage of service robots. In Singapore, the Crown Coffee bar recently onboarded its newest barista—Ella—who happens to be a fully autonomous, six-axis robot. From taking orders via an online app to making and serving coffee to finalizing the bill and charging credit cards, everything Ella does is powered through Intel® technologies: an Intel® Movidius™ VPU, the Intel® Distribution of OpenVINO™ toolkit, and Intel® Xeon® and Intel® Core™ processors.
The use of service robots in restaurants doesn’t stop in Singapore. Ghost kitchens, also known as delivery-only kitchens with no dine-in services, are leveraging autonomous service robots to deliver food orders to customers. Until recently, ghost kitchens were typically used by pizza restaurants or other delivery-only businesses. However, the challenges that have emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic—including the need for contactless delivery, increased costs, and labor shortages—have helped ghost kitchens proliferate and become more of a standard restaurant business model. Many modern ghost kitchens located in densely populated or campus-like areas are now experimenting with self-driving service robots as an innovative and cost-effective delivery option. When powered by Intel® solutions, these types of autonomous delivery robots often use Intel® Core™ and Intel Atom® processor-based solutions for real-time performance and flexibility; Intel® RealSense™ computer vision technology for spatial awareness; foundational tools for faster and simpler software development, such as Edge Insights for AMRs; and the Intel® Distribution of OpenVINO™ toolkit.
Service robots in healthcare settings are used for a range of tasks that aim to create a safer environment for workers and patients, relieve some physical demands on human workers, and ultimately provide patients with a high level of care.
For example, service robots are often assigned to handle routine logistical tasks to improve operational efficiencies and ensure processes happen in a more consistent manner.
Common duties assigned to service robots include setting up patient rooms, tracking inventory and placing orders, and transporting supplies, medication, and linens. Cleaning and disinfection robots can also help create a safe and sanitized facility for everyone. One autonomous service robot developed by Irish start-up Akara is being used to help hospitals sanitize rooms and equipment, aiding in the fight against COVID-19.
Learn more about robotic technology in healthcare and how medical robots are helping improve patient outcomes.
As e-commerce sales continue to surge, logistics businesses are using service robots to help overcome current labor shortages, assist current workers to avoid workforce burnout, and enable warehouse automation.
Robotic arms are often assigned tasks like picking, placing, and sorting objects, and because AMRs can navigate warehouses independently, they are used to deliver materials to human workers for accurate and efficient order fulfillment. Both types of service robots can be empowered with vision sensors and artificial intelligence technologies to allow them to “see,” which enables them to more accurately detect, classify, sort, pick, and package objects.
Some logistics companies, such as FedEx, are experimenting with using AMRs for last-mile delivery of goods, which is often the most expensive and least productive part of the entire delivery chain. To tackle some of its same-day delivery business, FedEx created an autonomous mobile robot named FedEx SameDay Bot to work with local retailers to deliver customer orders directly to their houses. The bot navigates sidewalks, unpaved surfaces, and steps while carrying cargo, which can include hot or cold food orders.
Service Robots for Personal and Private Use
The idea of having a humanoid robot in your home to attend to your every need is still a fantasy. However, having a personal robot to assist with your daily cleaning tasks is now a reality for many households across the globe.
Samsung Electronics recently launched the world’s first-of-its-kind robot personal vacuum cleaner powered by Intel® Movidius™ Vision Processing Unit technology. Named Jet Bot AI+, Samsung Electronics says its vacuum recognizes the highest number of objects when compared to other robot vacuums on the market. Jet Bot AI+ is equipped with a LiDAR sensor and an active-stereo camera 3D sensor, which enable it to create maps of its environment and detect and avoid obstacles.
Service Robots: Essential for the Future of the Service Industry
As the service industry continues to grapple with a constant stream of challenges, investing in service robots and using them to free up employees to focus on providing the best customer experience will be key for businesses to succeed.
Our global partner ecosystem, years of expertise, and end-to-end robotics solutions can help companies enhance productivity, ensure the safety of humans, keep customers happy, and thrive well into the future.