Industrial and Smart Automation

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Prepared by Joseph Chan, Kaki Chan, Vy Do, William Sung, and Elaine Tang
Beedie School of Business, Simon Fraser University

Automation is the application of control systems, methods and techniques to reduce or minimize human intervention. Mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, electrical devices and computer systems are often selectively used in combination, or in full, to achieve automation.[1]

Industries presently experiencing growth in the field of automation include Manufacturing, Health, Transportation, Retail and Home Automation. In this Wikipedia, we will explore the aforementioned industries’ current and emerging applications of automation, and foreseeable implications on their industries.



The progression of Industrial Automation could be categorized into four major phases.

  • 1760 - 1840: Fueled by the first Industrial Revolution between late 1800s to early 1900s, this time frame was the first key transition toward Industrial Automation. The manufacturing industry developed and embraced more efficient production techniques, from utilizing hand-made procedures to machine-made procedures. This was possible due to the advancement of water power, steam power, chemical and iron production techniques.[2][3]
  • 1840 - 1940: Around mid 1900s, the second Industrial Revolution had begun. As a result, steam power was an increasingly popular choice, and steel production industry had become mature. Followed by the discovery and usage of electricity as a source of power, automation had become increasingly popular and was adopted among mass production assembly lines.[2][3]
  • 1940 - Present: Following the invention of transistors and computers, this is roughly the time frame that robotic technology was also introduced. In 1937, the concept of robotics was introduced and the first international standard was formed. Later in 1956, the first robot was created and robotic arms became widely adopted, primarily in the manufacturing industry. Automation started to extend its reach to different industries and businesses.[2][3]
  • Present to Future: The concept of Industry 4.0 [4] was introduced in 2011 at the Hannover Fair in Germany. It emphasizes on the future of connected capability, which includes Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, and cyber-physical system in the manufacturing industry. In addition, this approach isn’t limited to the manufacturing industry, but to all industries that practices automation.

Manufacturing Automation

Robotic Data[5]

Manufacturing industry has a deep relationship with automation and has been an early adopter, which dramatically increased production amount and significantly improved the efficiency of assembly lines. These process improvements helped cities and countries become more urbanized and wealthier[2].

Manufacturing automation became more advanced with the invention of computers and robots. In addition to the introduction of Internet, computer and robotic technologies have become more sophisticated. Industrial revolution 4.0 is happening[4].

Current Trend, Data and Robotics

With the introduction of the Internet, the amount and speed of data generated became more and faster. Knowledge and information are transferred more easily and quickly. Artificial Intelligence (AI) deep learning and robot-ready automation have become the key focus for manufacturers. It is expected that industrial robots will continue to capitalize and replace human labor job opportunities in the upcoming years. It is projected that by 2017, there will be nearly 2 million robots in operation worldwide, in comparison to 1.3 million units operating in 2013 and 1.5 million units operating in 2014.

The top five countries that embrace robots in manufacturing in 2014 were: Japan with over 300 thousand units, US with 237 thousand units, China with 182 thousand units, South Korea with 175 thousand units, and Germany with 175 thousand units. These countries are known for their Information Technology (IT) driven strategies, in order to maintain and increase their competitive edge against each other.

Among the industries in the US, automobile and auto parts industries are the primary adopters of robotic automation. The automotive industry occupies 64% of new robot orders used for manufacturing, in comparison to 9% in metals, 6% in food and consumer goods, 4% in semiconductors, electronics and photonics, 4% in life sciences, pharmaceuticals, and biomedicals, 2% in plastics and rubber, and 11% in other industries.[6]

Five Key Elements in Advancing Automation

There are five major elements that drive the innovation of industrial automation.[7]

  • Computing Power: The improvement of Central Processing Unit (CPU) speed has followed Moore’s Law for over 50 years. Computers have become more compact and computing power has become more powerful with the progression of time. That said, many experts believe that Moore’s Law will reach its physical limit soon, and quantum physics and quantum computing are expected to be the solution for faster, even more powerful computing power.
  • Sensors: Due to the advancement of sensor technology, sensors have become smaller, less expensive, and detection and sensing capabilities are greater. They are increasingly accessible, and could be flexibly implemented into machines to detect and record data like distance, size, temperature, vibration and sound. Machines will become increasingly intelligent and capable.
  • APIs: Software programs are the soul of machines; however, codes may be written in different programming languages. As such, not all machines can communicate and transfer data to each other effectively. APIs are a set of protocols that allow programmers to integrate different software services. They help different and disparate systems to be put together and communicate with one another more easily.
  • Wearable Technology: Wearable technology has become one of the hottest topics in recent years. Many companies have developed wearable devices such as smartwatches, which allow workers to communicate with other workers or machines more effectively.
  • Internet of Things (IoT): IoT is definitely the next big thing, and it encourages many companies to be a part of the movement. It is the wrap-up central component that ties together the previous four elements. Thanks to the Internet, improvement of sensors, and advancement of software, machines have become more connected and benefits could be reaped from machine to machine communication. It will eventually spread its reach to many aspects of businesses and people’s daily lives. Meanwhile, factory and business operations will be the major adopters of IoT, largely due to its potential benefits and economic values. According to a study from McKinsey, IoT may offer a positive potential economic impact of $4 trillion to $11 trillion a year in 2025.[8]

CNET News - Meet the robots making Amazon - Kiva[9]

Manufacturing Automation Applications


Kiva[1] robots are widely used across Amazon warehouses. Currently, there are over 3,000 Kivas in operation. Each of them is capable of lifting 750 pounds and travel 3 to 4 miles per hour (5 to 6.5 kilometers per hour), which is approximately a human's average walking speed. Kiva is equipped with sensors to help it navigate, and to avoid collisions. The robot can also measure its relative location and distance from target. Using Wi-Fi, engineers can provide instructions to individual units of Kiva as necessary. By implementing Kiva into operation, Amazon has significantly increased its warehouse inventory capacity by an additional 50%.

Apple Liam - An Innovation Story[2]


In March 2016, Apple introduced their recycling robot, Liam[1]. In order to fulfill Apple’s social corporate environmental responsibility, the company took an innovative approach by designing Liam to disassemble iPhones. Unlike the traditional electronics recycling method, to shred and filter, Liam is designed to dismantle old iPhones piece by piece. Liam is taking robotic technology to the next level, by dealing with tiny components. There are multiple robotic arms which are responsible for different tasks to dismount different segments, such as screen glasses, screws, camera lens, etc. Liam is capable of disassembling an iPhone in just 11 seconds. That is 350 devices per hour, and 1.5 million devices per year.

Baxter Multitasking[2]


Baxter[3] provides a solid concept of what next generation robots are going to be capable of. It has self-learning capability. A user can move its arms to demonstrate a process to the robot, like picking up an item and lifting it to another location. Baxter will then learn and remember the procedures and not only perform it, but also save the macro for future use. It can multitask, as two arms can perform different jobs. It works collaboratively with human employees. Most notably, it is capable of detecting close by objects, such as a person standing near by, and stop its tasks until the person moves away. If not, it will send out alerts to the user until the object is no longer nearby. The software inside the robot is also being updated continuously. At present, Baxter is able to perform tasks faster than its initial introduction.

Future transformation

Due to continuing improvement of technology, it to expected that machines and robots will become faster, smarter, more efficient, and more versatile as time progresses. They are capable of intelligently handling various sizes of materials and products. There will also be an increase in the adoption of automation across manufacturing industries globally in the near to distant future.

For instance, the footwear manufacturing industry had been considered to utilize the least amount of automation techniques. However, recently Adidas begun to implement robots to increase the degree of automation in their shoe manufacturing plant in Germany. [4]

As manufacturing automation becomes widely adopted, job transformation and empowerment will become increasingly important, as there are overall more laborers losing jobs. It has become a critical priority for governments and businesses to plan and offer required training to help laborers properly transition to adopt and to be responsible for performing positions with additional responsibilities.

Advantages of Manufacturing Automation

There is no doubt that benefits of automation in manufacturing industry are significant. Robot-ready implementation is a must in most production and assembly lines in order for manufacturers to survive and maintain its competitive edge. It provides key benefits as following:

  • Increased Safety: Robotic automation can replace human labor to handle dangerous jobs, such as environments involving extreme heat and cold, toxic material, and heavy transportation duties.
  • Reduced Error: Human laborers are more prone to making mistakes when performing repetitive jobs, in comparison to robots, as robots are excellent at repetitive tasks. Automation implementation can increase production performance, efficiency and accuracy.
  • Lower Cost: From a business owner point of view, variable costs such as employee compensation (i.e. salary) is always a major consideration in a manufacturing industry. There are also uncertainties involved with human labors. Humans get tired, might get sick, and need day-offs to rest. In contrast, for the most part, a robot only requires one-time purchase, scheduled maintenance, repair as required, and parts could be resold when the robot’s effective lifespan ends.

Disadvantages of Manufacturing Automation

Manufacturing automation requires special attention from a social perspective. Debates and arguments are likely to increase as implementation of robotic automation progresses with time. Several issues are highlighted below:

  • Job Lost: This is the first and direct impact to manufacturing industries, especially from the perspective of employees. By implementing robotic arms and devices, less human labor would be required overall.
  • Electricity Dependency: There will be an increase of electricity consumption as more robots are implemented in assembly lines. Power outage will definitely hinder production performance. Power source stability will be a major concern and priority for manufacturing plants.
  • Less Flexible for Unprecedented Orders: There is usually a fixed number of machines equipped in factories working 24/7 at any one time. If there is an urgent need to meet an unprecedented increase in demand, unlike human labors, there is no simple solution to meet the demand unless companies have already planned for reserved production units to be readily put in place beforehand. To this end, it also takes time, space and money to acquire and to implement additional machines to meet manufacturing demand.

Healthcare Automation

Healthcare is another industry that can be greatly benefited from robot and automation. However, automation has not been fully deployed because of high cost and human resistance. The healthcare processes have not been changing significantly in diagnosis and treatment. Over the past years, there were quite a number of valuable innovations in the healthcare industry. They include Health Information Systems, Robotic Doctor and Robot-Assisted Surgical Operation.

Health Information Systems

Health Information Systems capture, store, and transmit health-related information across organizations in the health sector. Health Information Systems mostly involve Big Data. However, it does play an important role in the automation process, as it benefits doctors, researchers, patients and many stakeholders[5].

IBM Watson Healthcare[6]


Health Information Systems is a recent concept that began in the 1900s. This is due to the rapid development and advancement of computer technology, as it provided a means to manage and process large amounts of data.

  • 1960: The beginning of the Health Information Systems era. They were developed and maintained mostly in-house. Computers and storage were expensive. Therefore, data processing was centralized on a computer mainframe, which was a shared resource among hospitals.
  • 1970: The shared computer and storage system was still used, but computers became smaller and more affordable. The option to install these systems within a single department was now a feasible option. There was also a high demand for better, more efficient means of communication, which resulted in the increase of departmental systems.
  • 1980: Limited communication among hospital caused inefficiency. As a result, there was an expansion of clinical information systems in the hospital. At the same time, computer software and network solutions were introduced into the market. Hospitals began to integrate financial and clinical information systems, which helped facilitate communication in a limited number of ways.
  • 1990: With the introduction of the Internet and affordable computer hardware components, there was more competition, which provided hospitals with many options and offers to select from.
  • 2000 and beyond: The health sector now had more of everything. Health Information Systems had been emerging into cloud computing and cloud-based big data analytics[7].

IBM Watson

As mentioned above, Big Data plays a crucial role in Health Information Systems, and wearable technology is an important catalyst to their success. Nowadays, our lives are integrated with many pieces of technology, such as smartphones, and fitness trackers like Fitbit, Nike+, etc. They collect personal data including demographics, sleeping habits, exercise patterns and diets. These data contribute to the Big Data pool to help predict health trends and to update information across hospitals and clinics.

However, there are some concerns. First of all, data theft is a big issue. Secondly, there may be a controversial debate on who is the actual owner of the data - the users or physicians. Last but not least, what is the right type, and amount of data to select? If healthcare experts select the wrong type and/or amount of data, an incorrect prediction of health trends may occur and cause problems for patients.

IBM Watson is one of the ways to remedy the aforementioned issues. Medical data double every three years. Traditional healthcare industries cannot keep up with data integration, as it causes a lot of inefficiencies. IBM Watson takes the vast amount of data from medical records, clinical trial, research, real-time data from wearable technology, and combines them into one centralized thinking hub on the cloud. IBM Watson integrates traditional analytics with cognitive capabilities. Also, IBM Watson is able to learn overtime and refines its data - which turns data into applicable knowledge. This automates the flow of health-related knowledge and information among healthcare workers and organizations - which is relatively faster, more convenient and with greater accuracy[8].

Robotic Doctor

The second big innovation is Robotic Doctor. This technology was introduced in 2009. It is a joint effort between two industry leaders, iRobot, and InTouch Health. It allows remote doctor-to-patient consultations, ensuring that the physician is in the right place at the right time and has access to the necessary clinical information to make an immediate recommendation and/or action. The robot has an unprecedented ease of use. It maps its own environment and uses an array of sophisticated sensors to autonomously move about a busy space without interfering with people or other objects. In 2012, it passed FDA clearance, and it is now available in approximately 100 hospitals in the USA and around the world[9].

There are 5 types of Robotic Doctors for patients’ access:

RP-VITA [10]
  • RP-VITA stands for Remote Presence Virtual + Independent Telemedicine Assistant. VITA is the most popular and advanced robotic device, which improves the independency of remote clinics and patient care. The machine integrates easily into the hospital's systems to make best use of its features and AutoDrive capabilities that encourage physician adoption and clinical use. VITA is available for lease, which costs $4000 to $6000 USD per month for hospitals to operate the machine[1].
  • Lite is used widely in hospitals that depend on telehealth to deliver timely service to patients. It does not have an AutoDrive function that can drive itself like VITA. However, it does have a pan-tilt-zoom camera system that optimizes viewing of patients. Moreover, it includes a “hands-on" function with a stethoscope, privacy headset, and ports permitting connection to other diagnostic tools; which helps the effectiveness of distant consultations[2].
  • Viewpoint is software that can be used on patients' personal devices. Once Viewpoint is powered on, patients can connect from any location to receive quality medical care from a remote healthcare provider over the InTouch Telehealth Network[3].
  • Xpress is used mostly in ambulances, between transportation from the location of an accident to the hospital. It provides a robust and reliable connection for doctors to consult with the patients and paramedics over Wi-Fi or cellular network[4].
  • Vantage is used mostly during surgical operation. It provides opportunities for advanced training and support of new and complicated procedures and techniques[5].

Robotic Doctor Advantages

Robotic Doctor brings a lot of benefit for healthcare workers, as well as patients. This robotic technology provides immediate care for patients in remote areas, shortage of staff situations, and during transportation and transfers. In those emergency situations, time is often a key element for increasing the chances of success in saving one’s life. Moreover, the telemedicine technology does save a lot of time and resource for the health sector. Instead of traveling far away and transporting patients from rural areas, the technology is able to deliver a faster and cheaper solution, which not only has a great impact on the rural community, but also helps to reduce the pressure for healthcare workers.

Robotic Doctor Disadvantages

On the other hand, Robotic Doctor poses some disadvantages. Although patients will receive immediate care, the technology lacks the companionship and human touch of human medical staff, because they will deal with a computer screen. Also, the concept and application could appear to be freaky to some, as a machine can easily move around and operate on its own. Last but not least involves legal issues across different regions. Physicians can have credentials to perform telemedicine differently in different areas. This can pose as a challenge in achieving quality common standards across every region for the technology.

Robotic Assisted Surgery

Robotic surgery, or robot-assisted surgery, allows doctors to perform many types of complex procedures with more precision, flexibility and control than traditionally possible with conventional techniques. Robotic surgery is usually associated with minimally invasive surgery - procedures performed through tiny incisions. It is also sometimes used in certain traditional open surgical procedures.


  • 1985 : The Unimation Puma was used to place needles for a brain biopsy using CT guidance. Robot PUMA 560 was used to perform neurosurgical biopsies with greater precision.
  • 1987: Robotics was used in the first Laparoscopic surgery, also called minimally invasive surgery.
  • 1992: The PROBOT, was used to perform prostatic surgery. The ROBODOC was used to assist hip replacement surgery. This was the first FDA approval robotic-assisted surgery.
  • 2000: Further development of robotic systems were carried out. The da Vinci system was introduced and passed FDA clearance.

The Da Vinci System[6]

The Da Vinci System

The Da Vinci system was made by Intuitive Surgical, to facilitate complex surgery using a minimal invasive approach. According to the creator, the machine is called “da Vinci", because it was based on a part of Leonardo da Vinci’s study of human autonomy. As of 2014, there were approximately 3,000 units worldwide.

The system includes three major components: surgical console, surgical cart with four robotic arms and the vision system.

  • The surgical patient-side cart has four robotic arms. One arm holds the endoscope, while the remaining arms hold the interchangeable surgical instruments. The da Vinci system uses EndoWrist, which is a flexible wrist allowing the surgeon to move more freely and mimics human hands.
  • The surgeon console is several feet away from the operating table and is used by the surgeon to manipulate the surgical instruments. The robot has three hands attached to a free-standing cart. One arm holds an endoscope, which has been passed into the patient through small openings. The surgeon operates the other two hands by inserting fingers into rings.
  • The vision system includes the camera, endoscope, and other equipment to produce the best 3D image of the surgical area[1].

Robotic Assisted Surgery Advantages

There are many advantages of using robot-assisted surgery. Surgeons using robotic arms can operate with more precision, and patients will experience fewer complications, less pain and blood loss during and after the surgery. Furthermore, the scars will be smaller compared to traditional surgery, because of minimal invasive techniques. This results in faster healing, which may decrease the overall period of hospital stay and potential post-surgical implications. For surgeons, this technology will assist the doctor with shaky hands, and also give them better vision. In addition to that, fewer surgeons and assistants will be needed during surgeries, which helps save time, resources and complications.

Robotic Assisted Surgery Disadvantages

However, robot-assisted surgery is expensive to purchase and carries a high cost for maintenance. The market price for the da Vinci system is approximately under $2 million USD. Not everyone can benefit from this because people may have infections and complications post-surgery. Patients are required to consult with their doctors before receiving robot-assisted surgical operation.

Future Prospect

We believe that the healthcare industry will slowly adopt robotic technology in order to automate current manual processes. Barriers to adoption are mostly due to human resistance and high cost associated with the technology. It is costly to utilize the da Vinci system, and the same applies to RP-VITA. Hospitals and clinics need to evaluate their options and needs, before selecting the appropriate technology, as it may poorly affect their operating revenues and costs. In the long run, healthcare automation and robotics will definitely become more widely adopted. World population is increasing and there is an escalating demand for better healthcare. In addition, there is a shortage of personnel in the healthcare industry. The healthcare industry needs to take advantage of this technology, to assist its workers and patients by incorporating more efficient processes. Health Information Systems are expected to grow most rapidly, with the greatest acceptance. It acts as an assistant for healthcare workers as a whole, as its processes are automated and will reduce stress for physicians, researchers and etc.

Healthcare has a strong connection with individuals’ well-being. Therefore, new approaches will require a good amount of time to convince users that it is reliable and feasible. Moreover, when a person is in critical condition, he/she will definitely feel insecure and scared. During that period, a human being will experience many different emotions. A sense of security and comfort may only be achieved through consultation and comforting with a real person. This is something that is not easily replaceable by a machine or artificial intelligence. This “human connection" therefore, has a role that cannot be easily replaced by machines and robots. We strongly believe that a caring nurse or doctor is necessary for speeding up the healing process, and provide the invisible strength to aid the patients, especially those that are in critical condition.

Transportation Automation

Public transit: Automated Guideway Transit (AGT) System

The AGT is a fixed-guideway transportation system which operates with automated individual vehicles or multiple train units. Service is available on a fixed schedule or in response to passenger-activated call buttons. AGT vehicles are required to be more closely coordinated with the platforms. For example, the Vancouver Skytrain system is the longest driverless transit system in North America. AGT covers a wide range of systems, and there are two specific designs we will be exploring: Personal Rapid Transit and Group Rapid Transit. [2] [3]

Personal rapid transit[4]

Personal Rapid Transit

Personal Rapid Transit is designed as an extension of existing pod cars. It is sized for individual or small group travel, typically carrying no more than 3 to 6 passengers. This system provides direct origin-to-destination transportation by using on-demand pods and transit exclusive guideways, which combine the advantages of private vehicles with those of rail transit. As of July 2013, four PRT systems are in operation globally. The oldest and most extensive PRT system is located in Morgantown, West Virginia, USA, which has been in continuous operation since 1975.

Group Rapid Transit

Group Rapid Transit provides a shared ride means of transportation for 6 to 30 passengers. It can be configured both in-line and network configurations. The system is similar to a lift or elevator. The passenger presses a button at a station to call for the vehicle and then selects their desired destination once inside the vehicle. The vehicle will arrive to pick up the passenger and then proceed directly to the selected destination, unless other users request the vehicle for pick up along the way. Group Rapid Transit acts more as an automated shared taxi system. The waiting times are kept low, between 1.5 – 3 minutes on average, and services are provided on demand. Therefore, the optimal surface transportation routing solution could be achieved, with respect to balancing travel time, convenience and resource efficiency. [5]

Examples to Leverage Automation Technology

First/Last Mile[6]

In the future, there are many potential new solutions to leverage automation technology in public transit. For example, the concept of a first and last mile - automated shuttles that could be dynamically routed to provide on-demand services within the range of a few miles of transit stations. This could encourage more transit use, reduce parking needed at transit stations, and also reduce existing costs for providing fixed-route service with a driver. Also, the existing vehicles with fixed routes could be replaced by driverless vehicles of varying sizes. Any service operated within a fixed guideway, such as bus rapid transit, may provide a good starting point. For passengers that require other people to assist them in getting in and out of the vehicle, they could travel in a dynamically routed driverless vehicle which could be less expensive than existing paratransit services. [7]

Self-Driving Vehicles

The Future of Driverless Cars[8]

Automated vehicles are capable of sensing their environment and navigating through roads without human input. They rely on technologies like Global Positioning System (GPS), Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR), and other radar systems to read their surroundings and make intelligent decisions regarding the car’s direction and speed. Google, Uber, most automakers, and many other companies are predicting that they will have automated vehicles publicly available in the 2018-2020 timeframe. [1]

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DoT) released a “Federal Automated Vehicles Policy” on September 2016. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE)’s six levels of automation for on-road motor vehicles was used to distinct the different levels of automation. Fully automated or driverless, which is level 5 automation, means that the driver is expected to provide just the destination or navigation input, but they are not expected to be available to control the vehicle at any time during the trip. Many automakers are introducing semi-autonomous features like self-parking and adaptive cruise control. These are important steps toward full automation.

Brief History

  • The concept dates back to, at the earliest, 1925, when American inventor Francis P. Houdina demonstrated a radio-controlled, driverless car in New York City that was able to navigate through traffic on Broadway and Fifth Avenue in the US.
  • After World War II, interest in autonomous vehicles increased, with a focus on using specialized devices in roads to guide the vehicles. Nebraska worked with General Motors and Radio Corporation of America (RCA) Labs in the 1950s to demonstrate a self-driving car that was guided on a strip of highway outside Lincoln by a series of experimental detector circuits in the pavement. Further testing in the 1960s and 1970s demonstrated that cars could be controlled with buried magnetic cables on roads.
  • As radar, LIDAR and other technologies advanced during the second half of the 20th century, attention turned to equipping vehicles so that they could drive themselves without special roadway devices. Mercedes-Benz in the 1980s developed a self-driving van that navigated quiet city streets at speeds up to 39 mph, while a consortium of U.S. research institutes developed an autonomous land vehicle.
  • In 1991, Congress passed legislation instructing the U.S. Department of Transportation to demonstrate an automated vehicle and highway system. The subsequent research and engineering work culminated in a 1997 demonstration on Interstate 15 in San Diego, involving around 20 automated vehicles, including cars, buses, and trucks.
  • As car manufacturers reached closer to the commercialization of semi-automated technologies, such as front-end collision avoidance systems, Google began developing fully automated vehicles. In a 2010 blog post, Google disclosed that its self-driving cars had by then traveled more than 140,000 miles; always with a person behind the wheel who could take control if necessary. [1]

The first known fatal crash due to Tesla's autopilot[2]

Tesla Autopilot

Currently, the most advanced autonomous technology available in a commercial automobile is the Tesla Autopilot. The feature was first available in October 2015 and was integrated into the Version 7.0 update of the Tesla software. Tesla models with Autopilot can steer within a lane, drive autonomously on the road, avoid collisions by using the braking and steering systems, locate a parking spot and park itself, adjust its speed according to traffic, and change lanes with a touch of the signal stalk. While some cars on the market offer some of these features, Tesla managed to incorporate everything mentioned above into their vehicles. Another smart feature about the Autopilot system is the continuous learning function. Each Autopilot-equipped model sends real-time feedback to Tesla, and the company uses these data to continually improve the system and update their fleet overtime.

In May of 2016, a Tesla Model S with active Autopilot failed to apply the brakes when a tractor-trailer made a left turn in front of the vehicle. This the first known fatal crash directly associated to Tesla's Autopilot. After the accident, Tesla reiterates that the Autopilot system is in a public beta phase and customers are required to keep their hands on the wheel and to maintain control of the vehicle at all times. Some automotive and IT experts have criticized Tesla for introducing the Autopilot feature too early - as it is not yet ready for public use. [3]

Google Self-driving cars[4]


Tesla, along with most automakers, is aiming to manufacture vehicles with features that help assist drivers. While Google is aiming for cars that do not require a driver’s control, Tesla has built cars and slowly implemented driver assistance features that aim to make the vehicles eventually fully autonomous. Opposite to Tesla, Google began the other way around, and started developing artificial intelligence to help achieve a fully autonomous driving system, and then built a car around this system. The difference is that while Tesla now has a driver assistance system that works nicely in a plethora of situations, the Google vehicle is going to be able to take over all the driving activities of the human driver en route, because it is developed to think and react like a human driver, and not only to take over some of the driver's activities.

Google started its self-driving car project in 2009, and its goal is to make driving safer, more enjoyable and more efficient. In the past few years, Google has used about two dozen modified Lexus RX450h SUVs to drive nearly a million autonomous miles around Silicon Valley. It allows select employees to commute in self-driving cars on the highway. Its vehicles have been in 11 accidents since then. None of these accidents were serious or fatal, and none of them were caused by Google. There is no human backup for Google’s self-driving cars, so the car has to be able to handle every situation it encounters. This raises the difficulty since it’s hard to predict and for the system to safely and intelligently deal with all of these unprecedented situations. [5]

Advantages of Autonomous Car

The leading cause of most automobile accidents today is due to human error. The roads will become safer, as we remove distracted, flawed human drivers behind the wheel. Insurance for operating private vehicles would probably lessen as a result. One of the major reasons of traffic jams is selfish and dangerous behaviors exhibited among drivers. Self-driving cars can communicate with each other and with roadside infrastructure, as a result traffic flow is expected to become more efficient. Also, self-driving cars will be able to follow each other more closely and travel at higher speeds. Therefore, congestion will decrease, travel time will be lessened, and the capacity of highways will increase.

In addition, human productivity will increase. With cars doing most or all of the driving, we will be free to make the most of our time spent in the vehicle. Self-driving cars could become more like mobile offices in which people can text, talk by cell phone, send emails, or sleep without worrying about the dangers of distracted driving.

Also, driverless vehicles are designed to optimize efficiency in acceleration and braking, this will also help improve fuel efficiency and reduce carbon emissions. In fact, adoption of autonomous cars could reduce carbon emissions produced by cars by as much as 300 million tons per year, according to McKinsey. Last but not the least, all kinds of people who can't currently drive – the young and old, as well as the disabled, will become more mobile. [6]


Global self-driving car forecast[7]

However, there are also some limitations and concerns about self-driving cars. First, drivers will be no longer needed for taxis and freight transportation. As autonomous vehicle technology improves, it’s easy to imagine the world where these vehicles have no need for a human operator. It is estimated that over 4 million American jobs will be put at risk due to the coming revolution in self-driving cars. It’s not just about perfecting the technology, but also dealing with regulatory issues, insurance concerns, and consumer acceptance. Nowadays, owning a driver’s license comes with a series of rights and responsibilities; but to introduce these cars of the new era onto our roads, the legal framework will have to change significantly, which may take an extensive period of time.

The Future

We will witness more significant changes in the field of transportation and mobility in the next 20 years than we have in the past 75 years, due to the advancement of technologies. One thing is for certain: the widespread use of autonomous cars will change a number of experiences of the average person’s daily life.

In short term, people are not as quick to buy new cars as in the past, because cars are engineered to last longer, and it is not clear whether consumers will soon warm up to the concept of autonomous vehicles. A mix of traditional and automated cars on the roads may place new stress towards the current infrastructure, as engineers have begun looking into the possibility of designating lanes, redesigning intersections and traffic lights to accommodate traditional and autonomous vehicles.

In the long term, autonomous vehicles can function like rideshare services. After the vehicle brings the initial passenger to his or her intended destination, it can continue onto the next passenger, and so on. In the decades to come, many urbanized and developed cities may aggressively push for shared fleets, using self-driving electric cars that could be summoned to pick up passengers and shuttle them to offices and stores. The combined impact of electric cars, car sharing, and autonomous vehicles will significantly change the form of traditional urban transportation.

Retail Automation

Definition and Overview

Retail industry involves a business or person that sells or exchanges goods to a consumer. This includes, but is not limited to grocery stores, distributors, service providers and to an extent, restaurants and banks. Over the past decades, ATMs and self-checkout machines are examples that demonstrate the potential growth, effectiveness and business/customer acceptance of retail automation[8].

For instance, implementation of self-checkout systems is an increasingly popular option among retailers, especially major grocers. These machines can be found in major retail giants throughout North America, such as Walmart, Lowe’s, PriceSmart, Save-On-Foods and Real Canadian Superstore. The primary function of these machines is to assume the role of a cashier. Customers are able to process their purchases by themselves through the machines in a step by step process, guided by the self-checkout system. In 2008, there were 92,600 units of self-checkout systems worldwide, and in October 2016 there were 468,500 units worldwide[9].


McDonald’s Self Serve Kiosk[10]

McDonald’s Self-Serve Kiosk

Fast food restaurants prioritize in streamlining processes into providing quick, consistent and quality service. Beginning 2015, McDonald’s began implementing its self-serve kiosks throughout Canada. McDonald’s self-serve kiosks is a type of interactive kiosk, and assumes the role of a cashier.

The kiosks feature an interactive display that enables customers to interact with the machine to personalize their orders and to pay for them. For instance, a customer is able to customize and select the type and amount of meat patties, sauce, and other ingredients in their burger. In addition, the kiosk also helps customers visualize their personalized orders, as customizations are updated and reflected on the interactive display in real time. This way, customers will know what to expect after customizing their orders. The machine will then prompt the customer to pay for their order at the kiosk, to complete the payment process. Orders are then delivered to the customer’s table for dine-in, or customers could pick up their order at the cashier's counter for takeout when ready [1].

Most McDonald’s in Canada will feature this machine by the end of 2017 (1,400 locations, at the time of writing). At present, the machines will work concurrently with cashiers. This system is very similar to Panera Bread’s self-serve kiosk, the Panera 2.0, which also features an interactive self-serve kiosk. Panera Bread is expected to offer this system across every company-owned location by the end of 2016. Wendy’s also announced the fast food chain will offer self-serve kiosks in the later half of 2016 [2].

Fellow Robot’s NAVii

Fellow Robot NAVii[1]

NAVii is developed by Fellow Robots Inc. It is an intelligent inventory management and customer service solution robot. Designed to assist the business in inventory management – including keeping track of inventory and notifying the staff when inventory runs below a set threshold (so that more can be ordered)[2]. However, its primary achievement is through assisting customers.

In essence, NAVii’s function is similar to that of a customer assistance representative. It will assist and answer the customer’s inquiries, and even guide them, by leading the way, to the appropriate aisles and location within the store to help the customer locate a specified product.

NAVii understands multiple languages, and features voice recognition, enabling customers to interact with NAVii and to request, inquire and converse naturally, as the machine utilizes natural language processing (similar to Google’s Assistant and Apple’s Siri). It utilizes 3D scanner, smart sensors, and displays to ensure it is navigating intelligently to the appropriate locations, without bumping into persons or obstacles.

NAVii is able to accomplish the aforementioned, largely in part due to its integration with the business’ Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software[3]. Therefore, to implement NAVii, a business would be required to have a certain degree of ERP integration.

Starting in fall of 2016, Lowe’s has implemented NAVii into 11 stores across the San Francisco Bay Area, in the United States. The aforementioned functionalities of NAVii are utilized in Lowe’s. NAVii is known as Lowe’s LoweBot in the company’s select stores in San Francisco Bay Area[4].

Walmart’s Autonomous Shopping Cart (Patent)

Walmart’s Autonomous Shopping Cart Patent[5]

In an attempt to improve customer satisfaction, and better manage its resources, Walmart has patented an Autonomous Shopping Cart system.[6]

The carts will be able to drive itself in stores and surrounding premises. This allows for Walmart’s shopping carts to automatically move into cart docks safely while avoiding obstacles and individuals. In addition, customers will be able to ‘summon’ a cart, which allows for unoccupied carts to travel to the customer’s location in the store. These features are accomplished with the use of sensors, video cameras, wireless network, central computer and motors.

At present, Walmart has only patented the system, with no information regarding whether the company will actually implement autonomous shopping carts throughout its stores[7].

General Benefits of Retail Automation

There are several key benefits involved with the retail automation applications mentioned above. In particular, Customer convenience, performance consistency and reducing operating costs.

The biggest benefit to customers is increased convenience in using intelligent, automated machines. In the case of McDonald’s and Panera Bread self-serve kiosks, customers are able to take their time in carefully placing, customizing, confirming and paying for their order. In addition, the kiosks help customers visualize their order on an interactive display – so that customers will know what to expect in their order. In the case of Walmart’s Autonomous Shopping Cart patent, customers will be able to, in a sense, have a chauffeur to deliver and later, return shopping carts for them, anywhere in Walmart’s premises.

Automation robots will help businesses reduce operating costs, and increase performance consistency. Although the initial investment of implementing a structured automation system may be costly, the overall staffing, training, and variable costs will be lower, largely in part due to economies of scale. Likewise, robots are less likely to produce errors and in most cases, customers will benefit a structured, consistent customer experience and interaction with automated retail service robots and kiosks.

General Limitations and Concerns of Retail Automation

There are several limitation and concerns involved with retail automation applications. For instance, there may be large development and investment costs involved. In addition, if customer and employee acceptance rates are low, then the overall effectiveness of the automation system may be undermined, and will ultimately be less useful than anticipated, as not many would be using the system.

For the time being, automation is limited to repeatable, consistent and common tasks. Automated kiosks and robots are only able to perform simple, repetitive tasks. Hence, although it may be able to replicate the work of a customer representative or cashier, the robot or kiosk will not be able to understand or perform more complicated processes.

As retail automation may replace human capital in favor of reducing operating costs - socioeconomic pressures, including but not limited to laws, legislation, and union pressures will likely be major concerns that impact the overall speed of adoption and progression of automation in the retail industry.

Looking Forward

There are great potentials and benefits to be found in retail automation. Self-checkout systems are proven to be popular among major retailers, and would only continue to grow, be adopted and become increasingly sophisticated and intelligent throughout the industry.

Technologies similar to McDonald’s and Panera Bread’s self-serve kiosks could experience aggressive adoption among fast food retailers.

Fellow Robot’s NAVii and Walmart’s Autonomous Shopping Cart patent are examples of trailblazers in this industry. There are socioeconomic and technological limitations that must be overcome before companies may choose to adopt this technology. Walmart’s autonomous shopping cart may be adopted later on in the future. Meanwhile, Lowe’s has already implemented LoweBots in select locations in the United States. Subject to its success, other major retailers may follow suit and implement technologies similar to LoweBot in the near future.

Home Automation

What is Home Automation?[8]
Home automation or smart homes (also known as domotics) is an important area of industrial automation that is closely connected to the concept of Internet of Things (IoT). IoT is internetworking of physical devices, vehicles, buildings and other items embedded with electronics, sensors, software and network connectivity, which enables data collection and information exchange among these devices[1]. Smart home is the place where everything is connected and controlled.

Home automation is a technique in utilizing a computer, smartphone or tablet, and information technology to control home appliances and home features. The underlying principle of home automation is to automate household activities. It includes centralized control of features, such as air conditioning, lighting, locks of doors, appliances, entertainment systems, etc.


The first smart home automation were ideas, and not actual products. Science fiction has explored the idea of home automation for a long time. Prolific writers, such as Ray Bradbury, imagined a future, where homes were interactive, and seemingly ran themselves. In Bradbury's cautionary story, he describes an automated home that continues to function even after humans have all died out[2].

The general idea of smart home automation that appeared in those science fictions were just accurate predictions of how the present and future will be. Human beings' homes and household activities are now actually evolving with technology. Although the idea of home automation has been around for some time, smart homes have only existed for a short while[2] and has not been fully deployed because of the high cost, complex installation and human resistance.

  • 1901-1920 The invention of home appliances and machines

Although home appliances were not what we would consider "smart", they were an incredible technological achievement in the early 1990s. The introduction of machines into the home to assist with rising labor shortage was considered the first leap towards home automation. These achievements began with the first engine-powered vacuum cleaner in 1901. Following the next two decades was the revolution in home appliances with refrigerators, dryers, washing machines, irons, toasters, and so much more. It was a fantastic time for anyone who was employed as a maid by an affluent family, as these appliances were so expensive, but reduced much burden of the maids[2] [3] [4][5].

  • 1966-1967: ECHO IV

The idea of home automation was brought up in the 1930s - but it wasn't until 1966 when Jim Sutherland developed the first home automation system called "ECHO IV". The ECHO IV was the first ever home automated machine, which could compute shopping lists, control the home's temperature and turn appliances on and off. However, ECHO IV was never commercially sold[2] [4][5].

  • 1971: The invention of microcontroller

The first microprocessor was released in 1971 and this led to a great decrease in the costs of electronics, which meant technologies become more accessible to everyone[5].

  • 1975: X10 Home automation system

In mid-1900s, the X10 was created, which was a simple home automation system. In this particular system, home power lines were used to enable communication between several household appliances. However, the system's dependence on regular power lines meant that it was very vulnerable to electricity interference[4].

  • 1985: Smart Home

The term "Smart home" was first coined by the American Association of House builder in 1984[5].

  • 1990's: Gerontechnology

Throughout the 1990s, there was a new focus of combining gerontology with technology to help improve the lives of seniors and make their lives easier[5].

  • By the end of the 20th century: Domotics

Domotics was commonly used to describe how domestic appliances became more intelligent and advanced, through the combination of computers and robots. Despite the development in making this technology more accessible, it was still very expensive and only the affluent could afford it[5].

  • Early 2000s: Home automation became more popular

Technology gradually became more affordable, and an increasing number of technologies slowly entered and integrated into homes. Smart homes, or home automation, began to increase in popularity in the early 2000s. Domestic technologies, home networking and other smart gadgets began to appear on store shelves and online[2].

  • 2010 and beyond: Technology Disruptions and Revolutions

Different technologies emerged in the home automation market, which led a degree of technological disruptions and revolutions. People have become more familiar with home automation. Today's smart homes focus on security, convenience and leading a greener lifestyle. They are more sustainable and help to ensure that homes are not expending energy unnecessarily. Home automation is providing an increasing number of smart solutions to improve the lives of human beings[2].

Applications and Technologies

The Smart Home of Tomorrow.[6]

Samsung SmartThings

One of the most notable entrants into the smart home sector is a company called SmartThings, Inc. SmartThings was acquired by SamSung in 2014. This company was very popular because it promised the capability of linking nearly all the connected gadgets at home[1].

Using its application, called SmartThings, consumers receive the equivalent of having an intelligent conversation with their homes. SmartThings include three parts, an app, a physical central hub and various sensors and smart devices. Setting up and using SmartThings is quite easy. Users can download the free SmartThings app to operate their home from a smartphone and connect the hub to the home router. Afterward, users are able to add as many smart devices as they would like. The SmartThings app offers a complete home security monitoring solution that allows customers to receive instant alerts, should unwanted entries, smoke, leaks, or other unexpected events occur. By adding a compatible camera, customers can also get video clips that capture footage of these events[2]. At the end of 2013, SmartThings had shipped over 100,000 hubs[1].

SmartThings now Integrates with your BMW.[3]

There are two key highlights of SmartThings. First, SmartThings is actually using a centralized control technology. The central hub talks through all the different operating standards and controls all systems and devices from one location. Second, SmartThings is leading an open platform built for inventors and partners. This open platform acts like an open ecosystem, which lets any product or service connect with SmartThings to improve the lives of millions. It is a "full stack, protocol agnostic, platform for orchestrating connected devices and web services"[1]. In other words, in addition to SmartThings' own family of sensors, users can also control hundreds of connected devices from other manufacturers through the SmartThings open platform. This enables a smart home to be more efficient and more intelligent, as more and more systems and devices become compatible with each other through integration and partnership.

As of 2016, SmartThings is partnering up with Amazon Echo, an internet-connected speaker that responds to commands and questions asked by a user, which is a functionality of smart home automation. SmartThings also partners and works with BMW, which enables their customers to control their BMW vehicles by using the SmartThings app and access important information like the vehicle's range, mileage, battery charge status and location. In addition, users are able to manage their smart home directly from their BMW vehicle. For example, a user can activate the vehicle’s air conditioner and headlights, and later incorporate these actions as a custom routine for the SmartThings app. This integration illustrates the power of the SmartThings open platform, where companies can partner and work together in order to increase the convenience for users[1] [2].

Assistive Home Automation

Wearable technology[3]

Assistive home automation makes it possible for the elderly to remain at home, comfortably and safe. Home automation is becoming a viable option for the aging population that prefers to stay in the comfort of their own homes, rather than relocating to a healthcare facility (i.e. Nursing home). As the world population ages, people are generally living longer and they desire to live as independently as possible in their senior years. However, independent lifestyles come with risks and tradeoffs, such as accidents and unforeseeable injuries resulting from inadequate care and precaution[4][5].

To address these issues, researchers are developing home automation technologies to enhance the safety of residents and monitor their health conditions using sensors and other smart devices. These in-home sensors help keep track of movements and activities among its users, which offers great potential for detecting early health problems. Pattern recognition algorithms are utilized to look for changes in the sensors’ data patterns and generate health alerts to doctors, who provide further diagnosis and determine further options for treatment[4]. This could help lesser some of the health concerns of the elderly.

Wearable technology, like smartwatch is also used to monitor movement, and give reminders, such as taking medication on time. Smartwatches also work with the sensors that attach to movable objects around the home, like the refrigerator, pill containers, doors, etc. "Other small power sensors are also used to track electricity use or contact circuits that tell when a door is open or closed" [6].

These technologies also include an app that keeps track of an elderly's movement and health data. The app is for the family to use, which allows them to be aware of the elderly’s real-time location and to request immediate help should an emergency unfold. These home automation technologies benefit the elderly as they are relatively easy and convenient for them to use, such as to just put on a smartwatch. In addition, they can receive reminders when it is time for them to take specific medications.

ALPHA 2 - The First Humanoid Robot for the Family.[7]

Alpha 2

Nowadays, robotic technologies have an important role in home automation, especially with the pace of the advancement of technology. Alpha 2 is a humanoid robot with advanced interaction skills and it is developed by UBTECH Robotics, a company headquartered in Shenzhen, China. [1].

As of 2016, Alpha 2 is on Indiegogo and the estimated release date is March 2017. According to Indiegogo, the funds UBTECH Robotics raised had reached 1.4 million USD and was 1304% funded on December 31, 2015[2].

Alpha 2 is designed for practical household service and companionship. For example, it can act as a housekeeper, home guard, personal assistant, weatherman and storyteller for kids. It can also interact with human beings as it has conversational skills.

The selling price of Alpha 2 is $500 USD. Compared to the price of other smart humanoid robots, it is relatively affordable[2][1]. For example, Pepper, a humanoid robot from Japan is selling at a base price of $2100 USD[3], which is significantly more expensive than Alpha 2. The robots portrayed in science fictions are almost here. We believe these smart home robots would bring a lot of value to the smart home.

Advantages of Home Automation

One clear advantage of home automation is energy conservation, and therefore cost savings. Smart gadgets monitor and control energy use more efficiently. For example, a smart thermostat (i.e. Nest Learning Thermostat) is “smart”, as it monitors and uses a temperature threshold to govern the home's heating and the cooling systems automatically[4].

Customers can also remotely power off systems and appliances when they are not in use. Automated door locks can also increase home security, as homeowners can get alerts when unwanted entries and incidents happen. Remote monitoring can put homeowners' mind at ease, especially while they are away from the house[5][6]. With home automation, convenient control and safe monitoring of homes is at customers' fingertips[5].

One of the biggest discrete benefits that come with home automation is peace of mind. Homeowners do not need to be concerned whether the lights and TVs are off, or doors are locked[5].

Last but not least, home automation can help individuals get ready for the future, as they age[5]. Smart home technologies will continue to improve, and greatly benefit the elderly.

Limitations and Concerns of Home Automation

While home automation brings us a lot of benefits, we believe there are still some limitations and challenges. Controlling all aspects of home automation from one centralized platform is significant, but nowadays, not all systems are compatible with one another. For example, a security system may require the homeowner to log into one location to manage settings, while the smart thermostat may require the homeowner to log into another platform to control the room's temperature.

To truly leverage the convenience of home automation, the homeowner may need to invest in centralized platform technology to control all systems and devices from one location[6]. However, the rise of centralized control systems like Samsung SmartThings can help address these issues, but it will increase customers' costs in the short term. Home automation can be expensive, especially if homeowners want a whole-home automation. Even though the price of home automation systems have become much more affordable in recent years, the costs to purchase and install devices could still add up significantly[6][7].

Most of the home automation technologies will simplify people's daily lives, and a whole-home automation system provides the greatest benefit in terms of efficiency, cost, energy saving, and convenience. However, the installation of a whole-home automation system is very complex, difficult, and often expensive - which may be big concerns for the homeowner. The installation always requires expertise in electrical engineering and computer software and hardware. It may either cost the homeowners' money, should they hire an outside contractor to do the work, or cost their time if they decide to set it up themselves[6]. Moreover, to ensure the system is running properly, homeowners may be required to allocate additional resources for maintenance, to ensure safe and proper operation of Home Automation services.

Last but not least, earning customer trust and acceptance will be a big limiting factor of home automation. Since home automation relies on technology, smart devices and gadgets, customers may have concerns on whether they should invest a significant amount of money on an automation solution that might stop working, or fall short of expectations. For example, there could be a broken sensor that stops the thermostats from working. What's more, customer data will be transmitted back and forth through the Internet of Things in order to help the systems better understand a user’s routine. People might have concerns about information security and privacy issues. If the home automation system or a phone security breach occurs, those data may be lost or stolen, and that would be a really big issue for customers.

Future Prospects

With technology becoming more advanced, we are capable of incorporating technologies into every product - TVs integrated into mirrors, intelligent TVs operated under an operating system (e.g. Samsung Tizen OS), smart wardrobes, ovens, etc.[8]

The popularity of home automation has been increasing in recent years due to higher affordability and accessibility through smartphone and tablet connectivity. The increasing number of smart device users and the concept of the "Internet of things" has tied in closely with the popularization of home automation. Everything is just connected with one another, which allows smart devices to collect and exchange data back and forth. What's more, as the centralized platform technologies become more mature, and larger technology firms partner up and develop together, the smart home systems will become more compatible. So, in the long run, the home automation sector will continue to grow.

In our opinion, home automation technology for the elderly will experience the fastest growth. Home automation truly provides the elderly a lot of convenience and safety. People are living longer and most of them want to live at their own home. Home automation enables the elderly to live more independently, conveniently and safely. In-home sensors and wearable technology, tracking the elderly's movements and health data are already in use and researchers are working hard on improving these technologies.

However, for whole-home automation, we believe adoption would be relatively slower and may take longer for it to become mainstream. Limiting factors include its expensiveness and complexity to install and maintain. For its value to be realized, there should be a number of smart devices available in the home to connect to the smart home hub. In addition, customer trust and acceptance will be a big hurdle in adopting the whole- home automation technology.

The Future of Automation: Optimism, With a Dab of Salt


We are optimistic about the future of automation. First of all, employees will work in conjunction with Industrial Automation technologies, such robots, IOT, and etc. Employees will not be replaced entirely by the automation processes. Instead, they will be working side by side with assistive robots and machines. Secondly, as society is becoming increasingly educated and advanced, with the assistance of automation, employees will be presented with an opportunity to move toward more rewarding roles with more responsibilities. The dangerous tasks will be offloaded from human labor to machines. Furthermore, machines, robots, and other automation technologies will improve the consistency, efficiency and economy of scale across a lot of industries, which cannot be achieved solely by human labor. Last but not least, customers will also benefit from industrial automation. Due to the reduction of production costs, manufacturers could in turn, potentially increase the quality of products and services provided.

There are jobs that have come into existence in recent years, having never existed ten years ago, such as User Interface Designer, Software Developer, Operator, Support Engineer, etc. This is a benefit that could be partially attributed to the advancement and adoption of Industrial Automation, as it helps our society become more technologically fluent and educated as a whole. Therefore, overall, humans will still be in charge of new and advanced jobs, monitoring and working in conjunction with automation technologies - while leaving the repetitive and dangerous jobs to machines and robots.


There are limitations and concerns for industrial automation’s advancement toward the future. Employees will be responsible for more advanced tasks. However, companies will need to introduce effective transition programs to present opportunities and help assist employees to move into supervisory roles with additional responsibilities.

Although many jobs will be created, many more jobs may be lost due to the adoption of automation across industries. Repetitive and low-skilled level jobs will likely be replaced by robots and machines over time. There are likely not enough new jobs to compensate for the ones lost. Moreover, older employees may be unable to transition and adapt into new roles with more responsibilities, as it might be difficult to learn and operate new technologies at that age. As a result, the new jobs will favor those that are more educated, flexible and with a greater skill set.

Last but not least, from the perspective of society as a whole, pressure from regulations, unions, and socioeconomic issues will arise - since the advancement and adoption of automation across industries could translate into an increase in unemployment and contribute to serious poverty issues.


From the perspective of society as a whole, we are optimistic about the future of industrial automation. We are seeing an opportunity for society to benefit with better education and technology. Although people might need time to accept the transition, we hope they will slowly but surely realize the advantages industrial automation brings to society as a whole. There will also be fewer high risk and dangerous jobs, as they could be offloaded to robots and machines to ensure laborers’ safety. If transitioned, and monitored properly with care, employees could be presented with an opportunity to uptake more rewarding roles with additional responsibilities, while working in conjunction with assistive robots and machines. We believe advancement and adoption of industrial automation will, overall, benefit consumers, employees, businesses and society as a whole.


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  2. 2.0 2.1 Chow, J. (2015) "Alpha 2, the First Humanoid Robot for the Family!". Retrieved from:
  3. Dignan, L. (2014) "Softbank, Aldebaran launch Pepper, an emotional robot". Retrieved from::
  4. What is home automation and how does it work? (2015). Retrieved from::
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Comfort, S. (2015). Six Benefits to Home Automation. Retrieved from::
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Think Energy. (n.d.). The Pros and Cons of Home Automation Systems. Retrieved from::
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  8. The history of home automation from the beginning. Retrieved from:
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