Cloud robots coming to healthcare?

'Operations that require the execution of tasks in real-time will also need service-oriented robots with on-board processing capabilities'
By Mike Miliard
11:05 AM
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Healthcare is among the top industries that could feel the impact of the emerging phenomenon of cloud-based robotics, according to a new research report from Frost & Sullivan.

"Cloud robotics can be viewed as a convergence of information, learned processes, and intelligent motion or activities with the help of the cloud," the report explains. "It allows to move the locus of 'intelligence' from onboard to a remote service."

As robots are increasingly deployed for everything from manufacturing to surgery, Frost & Sullivan sees need to better manage them remotely via the Internet.

With the Web used to augment robots' capabilities – off-loading computation and providing services on demand – this will enable expanded memory and storage capabilities and access to shared knowledge, thus increasing their functionality.

"The key application sectors for cloud robotics include healthcare, transportation, consumer and manufacturing applications," according to the report, "Innovations in Cloud Robotics."

And as wireless networks and mobile devices become every more ubiquitous, new advances in cloud computing are "set to unleash a whole new world of cloud robotics," according to Frost & Sullivan.

While still in its nascence, cloud robotics has been building momentum worldwide, according to the report, which forecasts 2017 as the year where its impact will be most likely felt.

The expectation is that remote connections will make robots more productive and efficient, with higher computing efficiency at less power consumption.

Innovations in the field are being made by large companies such as Google and IBM, according to the report, as well as by smaller research groups around the world.

"As cloud robotics moves beyond its nascent stage, numerous applications of these technologies will come to the fore," said Frost & Sullivan Technical Insights Research Analyst Debarun Guha Thakurta, in a press statement.

"For the moment, healthcare, transportation, consumer robotics and manufacturing are areas that can benefit from the use of shared resources and the elimination of the need to manage or update robotics software," he said.

The challenge, however, has to do with these new robots' high dependence on active Internet connectivity for processing capabilities. In spots with limited connectivity, such cloud-based robots will be less able to function effectively and respond promptly in critical situations.

"The convergence of cloud robotics with big data, context-aware computing and high-speed ubiquitous wireless networks, along with the use of advanced wireless sensors, could solve connectivity issues that slow response times," said F&S analyst Mousumi Dasgupta in a statement. "Operations that require the execution of tasks in real-time will also need service-oriented robots with on-board processing capabilities."