Is the Internet of Robotic Things the Future of Manufacturing?

Emily Newton
Is the Internet of Robotic Things the Future of Manufacturing?
Illustration: © IoT For All

The Internet of Robotic Things is an emerging development promising to blend industrial robots and Internet of Things sensors — two valuable technologies. Will robotic IoT become a staple in the manufacturing industry?

What Is the Internet of Robotic Things?

The Internet of Robotic Things (IoRT) is a network of internet-connected robots. They use IoT sensors to collect data and interpret their surroundings. More often than not, they integrate with multiple other technologies like artificial intelligence and cloud computing to accelerate processing and free up resources. 

AI can help IoRT machines recognize and contextualize their environments. For example, it can distinguish between workers and equipment. While standard IoT can work similarly, it isn’t as precise. Motion, image, and proximity sensors can detect movement, process visual information, and measure distances, but they don’t analyze as an algorithm does.  

Few people think of traditional robots as gentle, careful, or meticulous — the IoRT might change their minds. Machines with IoT sensors and visualization technology interact better with their environment. They can pick up a fragile item without breaking it, navigate complex spaces, and deliberately avoid bumping into workers. 

Manufacturers and warehouses can use IoRT in any capacity where they’ve previously used traditional robots. Robotic IoT enables heightened precision and awareness, a marked improvement. Since this technology is relatively new, various industries are still exploring potential applications – including the Internet of Robotic Things in manufacturing.

Why Are Robotics and IoT Combining?

Industrial robotics use has sharply increased in recent years. Robot density almost doubled from 2017 to 2021. While some assume such success is more than enough, there’s still room for improvement. When industry professionals realized this, they looked to IoT.

IoT is appealing because it could add millions of dollars in value to robotics. Experts believe its economic impact could reach up to $11.1 trillion by 2025. These two technologies are rapidly evolving and becoming more valuable, so combining them was an easy decision. 

In addition to the potential added value, IoT and robots simply fit well together — the combination fixes one of the field’s largest pain points. Safety has been one of industrial robotics’ biggest issues for ages. Now, sensors can track proximity, motion, and video to keep workers safe. 

Unfortunately, industries that use industrial robotics the most have been experiencing widespread labor shortages for years. In the United States, 77 percent of manufacturing leaders believe they’re going to continue to have trouble hiring and keeping employees. Fortunately, IoRT can work independently because it can interpret and react to its surroundings in real time.

How Is Robotic IoT Different Than IoT?

IoRT and IoT have many similarities. For starters, they both use a variety of sensors to collect information about their surroundings. They turn light, vibration, proximity, motion, or speed information into electrical signals and place them into digital storage. 

Both IoRT and IoT offer data-driven insights for performance and maintenance. For example, they can track a machine’s vibration and speed to tell when it starts behaving irregularly. From there, they can send real-time alerts to management.

IoT and IoRT technology both maintain a constant connection to the internet. They both stay online permanently because it lets them connect over a shared network. This way, they can coordinate and send information to the same storage system.

Generally, the similarities end there. Standard IoT devices can only collect data from their surroundings — they usually need to be integrated with another technology to perform an analysis. On the other hand, robotic IoT can analyze and interpret the information locally. 

Moreover, where IoT can only collect data in real time, IoRT can respond to new information as it processes. As a result, it can interact with its surroundings and react to stimuli and events. For example, a robot could stop moving when it senses a worker nearby — conventional sensors would have to be connected to something else to trigger action.

Real-World Examples of Robotic IoT

The Internet of Robotic Things can come in many forms. 

Collaborative Robots 

Collaborative robots — commonly known as cobots — are a kind of industrial robot that operate alongside humans. Unlike their traditional counterparts, they are safe to work next to. Most use IoT sensors to tell where workers are. If someone gets too close, they stop what they’re doing. 

Mobile Robots 

A mobile robot can move around, so it’s typically much smaller than most industrial types. Many follow predetermined paths. Fulfillment centers and warehouses often use them so employees won’t have to lift, bend, or squat as much — they keep people in better shape and are faster. 

Many mobile robots use IoT technology to coordinate so they don’t run into anything. Since their sensors allow them to react to their surroundings in real time, they can decide where to go instead of being stuck on pre-set paths — which is helpful when an obstacle suddenly appears.

Networked Robots

Networked robots are a collection of IoRT machines operating as a group. They all operate on the same network, exchanging information and coordinating their actions. If one reports a delay or an unusual event, the rest will immediately know about it.

Cognitive Robots

Cognitive IoT leverages technologies like AI, cloud computing, and sensors to help a device learn about its surroundings over time and develop logic skills. When combined with robotics, the result is a machine capable of reasoning. 

In practice, cognitive IoRT technology could anticipate what people need and respond accordingly. For example, a manufacturing robot could adjust its speed to match workers. Alternatively, a warehouse machine could switch its order-picking routes to avoid delays.

Is IoRT the Future of Manufacturing?

Industrial robotics has been gaining traction these past few years. It’s among the fastest-evolving fields and has reshaped manufacturing significantly. Many manufacturing professionals have realized how lucrative the Internet of Robotic Things in manufacturing could be with strategic integrations.

Since IoT — an increasingly popular technology — has entered the picture, it might only be a matter of time before IoRT becomes the new standard in manufacturing. Already, the industry is exploring the boundaries of the Internet of Robotic Things in manufacturing, including cobots and mobile robots.

Robotic IoT will probably have a massive, permanent impact on this industry. Since it adds value to an already valuable technology, it will likely increase manufacturers’ return on investment. Once they see significant returns, they’ll want to implement it further. 

The Internet of Robotic Things in manufacturing is cost-effective, so widespread adoption may happen sooner rather than later. Since over 62 percent of manufacturers said robotics lowered labor expenses, adding IoT technology and its data-driven insights will likely save them even more money. 

Potential to Be an Industry Staple

In all likelihood, the Internet of Robotic Things will be a disruptor. Whatever role it plays in the manufacturing sector, it will likely permanently change how industry professionals approach robotics.

Emily Newton
Emily Newton - Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized | Industrial Content Writer,
I specialize in writing in-depth articles for the industrial and sci/tech sectors. In addition to my work for Revolutionized, my works have been published on, ReadWrite, and Global Trade Magazine. Please connect with me on LinkedIn!
I specialize in writing in-depth articles for the industrial and sci/tech sectors. In addition to my work for Revolutionized, my works have been published on, ReadWrite, and Global Trade Magazine. Please connect with me on LinkedIn!