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Make way for cobots, they are here to stay

Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori/Dubai
Filed on February 23, 2021 | Last updated on February 23, 2021 at 02.28 pm
Photo: Reuters

The global rate of use of cobots in factories and workshops is witnessing a steady increase, reaching 99 cobots per 10,000 employees.

The invention of the world’s first robot, The Ultimate, in 1954 marked the beginning of technological marvels. In 1961 when The Ultimate joined General Motors factory, many people were worried about the potential socialeffects of these robots on work environment, their impact on livelihoods, and the potential social unrest that this might cause.

Since then, robots have only become better and smarter. Meanwhile, fears and worries about the consequences of recruiting robots have also grown. The famous physicist, the late Stephen Hawking, had warned that the superiority of robots could pose a potential threat to human civilisation.

However, advocates of robotics asserted that humans would still be able to control the movement of robots and employ them for the benefit of humanity.

Today, as we move from the age of robots to that of cobots, I am reminded of Jürgen von Hollen, the Danish expert on robotics, who described cobots as the great equaliser that would protect companies’ interests and improve the quality of products without affecting workers.

So, what is a cobot?

In brief, a cobot is a collaborative domesticated robot that works alongside humans according to their rhythm, obeys their orders and instructions, and operates in a way that guarantees the security and safety of humans. It is the obedient and alert digital employee that carries out all repetitive tasks that do not require analysis, leaving such tasks to humans.

Cobots are easy to develop, safe and relatively inexpensive. When the novel coronavirus imposed massive changes in social and work patterns, with social distancing and reducing the number of people at the workplace, cobots became surprisingly popular in the world. Soon, we might see a cobot supporting every worker or employee in many sectors such as logistics, light industries and others.

Statistics from International Federation of Robotics (IFR) indicate that the global rate of use of cobots in factories and workshops is witnessing a steady increase, reaching 99 cobots per 10,000 employees. In some countries, this number is higher. In China, there are 140 cobots for every 10,000 workers, and in South Korea it is 800 cobots. The cumulative growth rate for cobots is expected to reach about 34 per cent by 2025 and corresponding to $13 billion according to analysts specialised in this industry.

This development raises many questions about how to benefit from the robotic “boom” not only in the private sector, but also in government services. Shall we expect to see indigenous studies and plans in this context?

Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori is the Head of Digital Government and Director General, TRA





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