Robotics as a Service (RaaS) Invades the Cleaning Industry
November 01, 2022
Most members of our embedded community are familiar with the term SaaS, which stands for Software as a Service. Since that moniker became mainstream, more “aaS” terms have come up. One that’s gaining in popularity lately is RaaS, which stands for Robotics as a Service.
Essentially, RaaS takes conventional robotics technology and adds a connectivity element, meaning that the robots can be connected to the Internet, an intranet, or a Cloud service. By having this connection, the robots can be monitored, controlled, maintained, and upgraded, all from a remote location, with 24/7/365 access. Adding a robot to your network puts you squarely in the IoT domain, an area that both designers and end users are now comfortable with.
While this does raise some questions, most (or all) of them have been answered. For example, how do we handle security? How do we ensure accuracy? And what about safety, as there are moving parts involved, with potentially big and heavy equipment, in the same environment as humans?
A secondary definition of RaaS focuses on the service side, where the robot typically belongs to a central company, and that robot is deployed at the customer’s location. Then the service provided by the robot is sold. In this example, most of the same principles would apply, including the connection aspect, which becomes far more important. Through that connection to the robot, the owner tracks usage and handles billing, and also has control over the robot. For example, a robot can be shut down if payment is not made. Or, the owner would know when a new robot should be swapped in based on maintenance needs and requirements.
Cleaning robots are becoming the norm in large public facilities like airports, shopping malls, and hospitals.
Estimates for the cleaning robot market say that it is projected to reach $24.8 billion by 2026, growing from an estimated $8.9 billion in 2021, resulting in a CAGR of 22.8% in that same time frame.
The generic cleaning robots are typically mobile, application-specific platforms that automate the cleaning processes, either for consumer, commercial, or industrial uses. They usually automate routine work, although in some cases, it could be dangerous, work, where humans should be steering clear.
Automated cleaning robots can also handle tedious tasks and frankly, they don’t complain and they don’t get sick. Tasked with a variety of chores such as disinfecting a space or removing toxic paint, they also function to make a work space more aesthetically pleasing and to keep operations running smoothly. Such work can be performed at night, when consumers are sleeping, shoppers are at home, or workers are in other parts of the manufacturing facility.
Two applications that are already making use of RaaS are for disinfection purposes and for use in public areas. Representative facilities include restaurants, museums, airports and other transportation centers, and shopping establishments, such as stores or malls.
There are many advantages to working with robots, well beyond the obvious mentioned above, and that would include both cost savings and consistency. The cost savings come into play by replacing people with robots. The initial cost will be higher, but the savings would be realized pretty quickly and would continue throughout the life of the robots. Aside from updates and other maintenance, there is little run-time cost associated with the robots aside from the power needed to keep them operating.
Robots Already In Place
One RaaS vendor, who resides in Asia, makes use of robotic cleaning in airports, hospitals, museums, galleries, shopping malls, food courts, and other various buildings. Deployment initially took place in Asia to prove out the technology and the vendor has since taken those “lessons learned” and deployed the technology globally, to more than 22 countries. The vendor was awarded the prestigious Amsterdam Innovation Award in 2020 for its floor-cleaning robots, making it the first Asian company to win this coveted prize.
While it may seem fairly simple to build a connected cleaning robot, that’s actually not the case for a host of reasons. For example, it must consume small amounts of power, as many of these platforms are powered by rechargeable battery packs. They must contain multiple interfaces, particularly wireless, and provide easy access. They must be upgradable to avoid early obsolescence. They should be expandable to potentially add features if desired by the user.
Another obstacle for RaaS developers to be concerned with is the potential vibration incurred by a cleaning robot. Oftentimes, platforms are built to operate in place. When they start moving around, components can shift, connectors can get loose, etc. And potentially, dirt, dust, and some level of liquidity could find its way inside the chassis. This must all be accounted for.
Adhering to standards and certifications can remove many of the concerns discussed here, and that’s the approach taken by the Vecow design team. This would include:
- IEC 60068-2-64, for vibration certification
- IEC 60068-2-27, for shock certification
- EN50155:2017, covering temperature and humidity
- EN50121 for safety and reliability
The platform Vecow uses for RaaS applications is its ECX-2000, which is based on the 10th Gen Intel Xeon/Core i9/i7/i5/i3 microprocessor (formerly known as Comet Lake). It’s a workstation-grade fanless platform that features 9-Gbit Ethernet and a host of other I/O. The high-performance platform is suited for rugged applications and can operates in temperatures ranging from -40°C to +75°C.
In addition, the Vecow SPC-5600 platform is more than suited for the aforementioned applications. It weighs in at just 2.7 kg, and measures 209 by 150.5 by 75 mm. The fanless design operates efficiently in temperatures ranging from -40°C to +75°C. This is an important specification, as a moving robot get gets relatively hot, even in an air-conditioned environment.
Vecow’s SPC-5600 is the perfect engine for a cleaning robot, with its small size, low power draw, and adherence to industry specs concerning, shock, vibration, and temperature. And with its 9th/8th Gen Intel Core i7/i5/i3 microprocessor, it has more than enough compute power for today and tomorrow.
Other features of the SPC-5600 include an eight-core 9th/8th Gen Intel Core i7/i5/i3 microprocessor (formerly known as Coffee Lake) running alongside Intel’s H310 chipset; up to 64 Gbytes of DDR4 2666-MHz memory; multiple display I/O; and support for TPM 2.0 security.
Vecow: Leaders in the Robotics Service Market
The last question to be resolved is, why Vecow? There are a few answers to that question. First, as evidenced by the SPC-5600, the company has the products to support the RaaS model. Second, Vecow offers one-stop customization service, with no MOQ limitations, even for custom requests.
Vecow takes advantage of modularized computer boards and I/O that allow for quicker design turn-around times. As a result, its customers can quickly develop and improve products and ultimately win more opportunities. Finally, Vecow operates with a dedicated and experienced project team that provides trusted support in all technical phases, even after the robot has been deployed. Contact your local Vecow sales representative for more information.