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February 4, 2014 > Robot Report

Robot Report

Posted January 16, 2014
Massachusetts-based start-up, has begun shipping their robots. After five years and an A, B and C round of equity funding, plus some debt, totaling almost $25 million, their HV-100 mobile robots are finally coming to market.

One Florida nursery said: Robot operating cost alone was quite competitive, but when we considered all the added benefits of lower insurance costs, improved worker health and safety, lower employee turnover and increased plant quality, it was a clear win for us. We couldn't be happier with the results.

The HV-100 plant moving robots perform a wide variety of plant handling tasks such as spacing, consolidation, and collection. The robots require minimal training to operate and are flexible to deploy in a wide range of bed and plant configurations on all common ground surfaces.

A recent partnership with SBI Software and their SBI Grower product, an enterprise production software system for the nursery and greenhouse industry, enables a cloud-based data collection system which lets the robots line the work that is being performed and reports this information back to growers and production planners to provide a comprehensive view of the work robots have completed and are in the process of doing.

UPDATE January 21, 2014: An even more recent partnership with Practical Software Solutions, a provider of ERP and back office accounting software, will enable Harvest Automation to connect robot data with the Sage ERP package from Practical to develop integrated production and optimization tools for the user. The new partnership was announced today.


Posted January 20, 2014
Suitable Technologies just announced their new Beam+ remote presence robot and is offering the first 1,000 units at a price of $995 (thereafter it will be $1,995). First shipments are scheduled for Summer, 2014.

The new Beam+ clearly separates from the corporate Beam in their advertising videos on their website: Beam has a leasing plan and is oriented for business use; Beam+ is a straightforward purchase and geared for home use. Beam+ uses your home wifi signal (instead of switching between two dual-band radios and 4G), has scaled down battery life (2 hours instead of 8 on the original Beam), has a 10" screen (instead of 17") and has an array of four microphones (compared to 6 on the Beam).

For start-ups and other small businesses - with consistent flooring and strong Internet bandwidth - the discount-priced Beam+ seems like an affordable device to enable roving employes and consultants to check in and move around the office while traveling. Plus it's fun and techie. Certainly it's a bargain compared to the $16,000 purchase price for the original Beam.


Posted January 30, 2014
Japanese start-up HiBot, a maker of various types of robots for commercial use such as industrial pipeline cleaning, also developed a high transmission line inspection robot name Expliner. Last week HiBot announced a partnership with Hitachi High-Tech Group to expand the development and distribution of that robot.

Hitachi High-Tech has been inventing and manufacturing railroad track/wire inspection equipment as part of its infrastructure inspection business. Looking ahead, Hitachi High-Tech will collaborate with HiBot to expand into the transmission line inspection business as well.

HiBot was at the forefront of the development of overhead transmission line robots and was about to do live trials when the Fukushima disaster occurred. It took all Tepco resources - including those used with HiBot to test and install their robots - and redirected them to the disaster area and recovery efforts - which is why this new partnership agreement is fortuitous for HiBot.

In the power industry, optimizing the use, performance and life of transmission lines, is a continuing need. Hence the need for this type of inspection robot. Different methods have been explored to examine, assess and determine and/or perform maintenance where needed, and, in Canada, to de-ice those lines as well. Many existing methods, some of which involve turning off the power, are too expensive to continue and include helicopter inspections. The Expliner robot by HiBot, QuŽbec's LineScout and the EPRI's robot are the farthest along in providing those services.

The American Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) has developed and is testing their robot. It was originally planned to be installed for field trials in 2013 but seems to be running at least a year or so late.

In Canada, Hydro-QuŽbec Research Institute created the LineScout robot which has been in the testing and upgrading phase for the last couple of years.

In October, 2014, the 3rd International Conference on Applied Robotics for the Power Industry will take place in Brazil.

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