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ROBotic security INnovative system

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ROBIN (ROBotic security INnovative system)

Reporting period: 2015-07-01 to 2015-12-31

ROBIN proposes a new modular robot able to perform different surveillance and monitoring tasks with interchangeable payloads. The objectives of the action were:

-commercial viability exploration of a new robot concept
-technical requirements definition
-detailed business plan to further exploit the product in Ph2

The target of market exploration included main actors of the security market, but also other related industries. In an early stage of the market analysis a market opportunity was identified to introduce ROBIN in the retail market. The market analysis revealed a much higher volume and growth potential in this segment than in the originally targeted critical infrastructures market, allowing us the introduction of the same modular platform concept. Following this discovery, we decided that our market analysis was going to address Security and Retail areas.

Moreover, we found that it was much easier for us to access the retail market than the security market. Major retail customers responded enthusiastically to our concept and proposed an application whose potential clearly surpassed the market potential of the critical infrastructure protection applications discussed with the security companies. The expected impact of applying the concept to the retail market would be a major increase number of units demanded by the market and the overall turnover.

Following the market analysis, the definition of technical requirements for the retail application was performed. For the definition of the technical requirements and further development of the prototypes we teamed up with Keonn, current provider of RFID technology for one of the main worldwide providers of RFID solutions for large retail customers. As a result of this collaboration, one robot prototype has been developed and tested in an actual retail application.

The response of the major customers and channel partners has been excellent, allowing us to build the complete value chain in the project:
-Technology providers: Robotnik for the mobile robot platform technology and navigation, Keonn for the RFID technology and related application software development.
-Retail RFID technology solutions provider
-End users

Main outcomes of the project are:
-Market analysis including discovery of a high potential mass market application
-Technical requirements definition
-Successful customer site prototype testing (several major sites)
-Business plan
-A team that includes the complete value chain from technology developer to end user
-2 patent applications
Market analysis: exploration of the commercial viability of the modular robot.

A list of international high potential customers was performed and questionnaire forms were sent to them as initial step. Telemeetings were scheduled with the largest customers, including their R&D and other product development staff, in order to analyze the opportunities and evaluate the potential market. The meetings primarily and the questionnaires secondly have been the main sources for the market analysis. The study has been complemented with end users and with contacts with competency companies (all the identified actors have been contacted).
Safety, Security and Rescue Robotics field part of the service robots market will gain importance in the near future. According to IFR, about 700 robots for rescue and security applications will be sold between 2015 and 2018, mainly surveillance and security robots. The same report forecasts that home security and surveillance robots will gain further importance in the future.
The main actors contacted were security service providers. These companies provide security services in critical infrastructure, shopping centers, banks, public and entertainment spaces (museums, libraries, etc.), and industry. Their activities are focused on surveillance, installation of safety technology with cameras, fire safety and CIT transport.
There are about 52300 security service providers in Europe, employing about 2.170.589 security guards. The European leader is Securitas, main competitors being Group 4, Securicor and Prosegur (the latter operates mainly in Spain, France and Portugal). These 3 companies represent about 55% of the total European market.

Technical requirements definition.

-Able to turn-in-place with a circular profile to maximize operation in different kinds of corridors.
-Navigation solution that reduces as much as possible installations in the environment. Combined solution of laser navigation with visual landmarks is acceptable.
-Easy deployment of the robot solution.
-Ability to operate in long periods (autonomy > 8h).
-Self recharging stations.
-High reliability: the robot should be able to autonomously navigate with near zero failure and be able to recover from failures.
-The antenna should be able to scan each corridor in a single pass (this forces some characteristics of the antennas sizes, distribution and integration on the mobile robot platform).
-Standard operation area is expected to range from 300m2 to 2000m2.
-The robot will be provided with an initialization process that permits the generation of the map, localization of landmarks an initialization of the scanning process.
-The navigation algorithm will define routes by sequences of waypoints so that an inspection mission will be defined by the set of routes.
-Once the maps and routes have been defined (teleoperated mode), the robot should be placed in the mission starting point. The HMI will allow the mission start in this point, and keep on performing missions in a fully autonomous mode.
-In the mission development the robot should safely move from waypoint to waypoint while performing the RFID tag acquisition. In case of localization lost, the robot will navigate safely until the localization algorithms provide again valid estimations.
-The robot will be able to detect obstacles with the laser sensor and with the RGBD sensors. In case of obstacle detection, the robot should be able to stop and find alternative routes avoiding the detected obstacles.
-The RFID and robot software will operate on the ROS ( ) architecture.
-The software should permit synchronized motion and RFID tag reading. This characteristic is very important as there are zones with literally thousands of items and the speed of the robot should adapt to the bandwidth of the RFID tag acquisition process. This synchronization is needed to maximize the read rate, the robot should only advance once no new tags are read at a given location.
-The robot should be easy to maintain. This means that robot platform and RFID antenna should be done as a standardized connected set of units, and each unit should be easily replaced by operators with basic skills. The complete control unit should be implemented as a box that can be easily replaced.
-The design should be optimized for series manufacturing: in particular, the mechanical parts should be able to downscale through mid-size series, the cabling should be designed for cable-set subcontracting and the design permit an easy and fast assembly.

Concept development, early prototype manufacturing and Pre.tests:

We have already conducted a total of 6 tests, 3 of them of several weeks, in 4 of the largest retailers in the world. All 4 retailers are considering our robot, and have opened conversations with us and our integrator partners about conducting extended pilots, and about the gaps to be filled before we are ready for massive deployment. This is why now is the right time for us to invest to transform the prototype into a final product, and why we need an important investment to do it.

Business plan:
The developed business plan includes a market analysis, strategy and implementation, SWOT analysis, revenue projections, manufacturing feasibility, user involvement, risk assessment, IP management, marketing plan and study of the ability to increase profitability of the enterprise through ROBIN innovation.
Our sales forecast predicts sales growth of about 400% over the next 5 years. With projected first year sales of 1.5MM€, the project will account for 30% of the total company turnover, and is expected to become the principal revenue-generating activity of the company in the subsequent years.

Currently a large percentage of our sales are generated by early adopters: R&D in civil and military institutions as well as service robotics applications in niche markets. This results in relatively inefficient small scale customized production runs, in many cases single units, preventing cost reduction associated with economies of scale. One-off engineering customization associated with this mode of operation further impedes profitability.

ROBIN presents a unique opportunity to boost the profitability of the company by enabling entry into a market segment that demands a high number of units. The resulting boost in production efficiency is expected to lead to a dramatic increase in the profitability of the company. Specifically, we expect the net margin to increase from the current 5%-10% to 20%-25% in the first years of production, resulting also in a significant increase. The increase will affect other profitability ratios as in return on assets and return on equity.