Thu, August 11, 2022

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Army of service robots rolling in to replace high-cost labour in Korea


South Korea has seen a growing number of businesses deploying front-line service robots that have begun replacing humans in performing mundane and routine tasks.

The introduction of robots is the result of soaring labour costs, a reduced number of workers willing to take labour-intensive jobs and pandemic-triggered non-contact services.

Korea’s service robot market will grow to an accumulative 230,000 robots by 2025, worth 2.8 trillion won (THB77.1 billion) in value, according to market data compiled by the International Federation of Robotics. As of 2020, its size had grown 34.9 per cent on year to 857 billion won, surpassing that for industrial robots. The global market for service robots is expected to grow to $74 billion (THB2.53 trillion) by 2026.

To meet growing demand for automated services, South Korean tech and manufacturing giants are jumping into the sector of service robots, which is still at a nascent stage compared to the market for industrial robots.

A service robot contains an automated computer program built to perform customer-oriented tasks. Unlike industrial robots that are typically used at factories, service robots can be used in restaurants, for medical care and at homes.

Platform provider Naver opened its new headquarters last month with the aim of creating the world’s first robot-friendly building where robots roam the floors to serve coffee and deliver parcels. Artificially intelligent robots also automatically take notes during meetings.

LG Electronics has opted to focus on lifestyle-integrated service robots.

Its latest focus has been expanding into the business-to-business market, completing a line-up of six kinds of its flagship CLOi robot with different purposes such as delivery, docent and cleaning. The latest version can self-drive and sterilise surroundings with ultraviolet lamps.

Samsung Electronics is set to launch its first robot product in August – a wearable medical device called Gait Enhancing & Motivating System. It will be called Fitsam, according to a patent.

Samsung’s wearable robot can be attached to the ankle, knee or hips to enhance the muscle strength of users with walking difficulties.

Samsung completed FDA approval last month for its global launch. It has also patented a total of 25 robot products that assist humans in housekeeping, education and sports.

Not just targeting the local market, companies are seeking ways to take their robots abroad.

Hyundai Robotics signed an agreement with British telecom Vodafone to develop service robots targeting Europe. They will test-run quarantine robots at university hospitals in Germany before supplying 5G-based service robots to restaurants, hotels and nursing facilities.

But concerns remain over the leakage of data using robots, as the majority of them are assembled overseas, such as in China.

According to the industry, more than 70 per cent of service robots in South Korea, such as those developed by Baedal Minjok and SK Shieldus, are from major Chinese robotics firms Voodoo Manufacturing and Keenon Robotics.

“Using cameras, lidar and radars attached to them, robots take photos or save related data to the manufacturer’s big data server – this means local firms which just attach logos on imported robots are easily exposed to risks of data leakage,” said an industry insider.

Some who are concerned point to the need for the government to bolster related laws to actively protect and further nurture the local robotics industry.

The US applies a 25 per cent tariff on service robots imported from China, whereas Korea has no special regulation regarding robot imports.

Kim Da-sol

The Korea Herald

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Army of service robots rolling in to replace high-cost labour in Korea

 

Published : June 02, 2022

By : The Korea Herald