• World Health Organization
  • Industrial IoT
  • Air Quality Monitoring
  • COVID-19

Robot Advancement Requires Operational Data and Stakeholder Alliances

Young Hoon Kim
Jan 19, 2021


During the pandemic, large-scale group infections occurred in churches, elderly care hospitals, dense high rise buildings, and other high occupancy facilities. Recognizing the importance of disinfection to prevent infectious diseases is a crucial part of maintaining a safe living space. However, it is difficult to maintain sterile environments for large facilities with workers, who could incur viral exposure. Robots can replace humans for this kind of risky task and save resources simultaneously, as seen through multiple applications.

Disinfecting Robots Thrive Globally

Headquartered in Odense, Denmark, UVD Robots is a subsidiary of Blue Ocean Robotics that develops, produces, and sells ultra violet (UV)-disinfection robots to prevent hospital acquired infections. In December 2020, the company announced that it was selected by the European Commission Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content, and Technology to supply 200 of its autonomous UV-C light robots to European Union hospitals fighting the coronavirus outbreak.

Keenon Robotics, based in Shanghai, China, launched a robot in 2020 that operates a combination of UV light and liquid disinfectant spray to kill pathogens. The droid is equipped with UV germ-killing lamps and atomizing disinfectant liquid spraying nozzles, carrying 1,500 ml of disinfectant liquid. The robot takes 6 hours to fully charge.

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brigham and Women's Hospital have been using Spot, a robot dog from Boston Dynamics. Spot aids socially distanced doctor visits by measuring patient temperatures, breathing rates, pulses, and blood oxygen saturation.

A self-driving robot equipped with cameras and LED screen greets visitors at the lobby in South Korea's largest mobile operator's headquarters. The robot checks visitor’s temperature, dispenses hand sanitizer, and disinfects floors.

Operational Experience and Data Can Improve Robot Technology

Countries use various robots to keep spaces sterile, safe, and socially distanced. However, there is a lack of data and operational experience, and many types of use cases are still in the demonstration and testing stages. Guidehouse Insights recommends manufacturers and product operation managers cumulate operational experience and data to improve technology. For example, cumulated navigation data from droids can improve autonomous obstacle avoidance functionality. Cumulated operation data also can show how effectively the sterilized space has disinfected, leading to sterilization technological improvements.

A pandemic-fighting robot is a combination of robot technology and medical methodology that also requires policy support. Cooperation between stakeholders such as engineers and medical doctors, and an alliance between the industry and public sector, will be crucial to commercialize robots effectively. Above all, the industry must listen to requirements from the field, like hospitals, to improve and enhance a robot's performance and technology.