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ABB buys Swiss AI navigation firm to boost AMR presence

11 January, 2024

ABB is buying the Swiss AI-based AMR navigation specialist Sevensense, for an undisclosed sum. ABB, which has had a minority stake in Sevensense since 2021, says that the acquisition makes it the leader in next-generation AMRs (autonomous mobile robots) that integrate Visual Slam (simultaneous localisation and mapping) technology with hardware and software. In 2021, ABB bought the Spanish AMR developer, ASTI Mobile Robotics.

Following pilot customer projects in the automotive and logistics industries, ABB plans to integrate Sevensense’s technology into its AMRs, promising “an unprecedented combination of speed, accuracy, and payload”.

Sevensense was founded in 2018 as a spin-off from the Swiss technical University, ETH Zurich. Its staff of around 35 people will continue to be based in Zurich.

“This marks a significant step towards our vision of a workplace where AI-enabled robots assist people, addressing our customers' needs for greater flexibility and intelligence amidst critical skilled labour shortages,” says ABB Robotics and Discrete Automation president, Sami Atiya. “Each mobile robot, equipped with vision and AI, scans a unique part of the building. Collectively these robots complement each other’s view to form a complete map, enabling them to work autonomously in a rapidly changing environment.”

Sevensense’s navigation technology combines AI and 3D vision, allowing AMRs to make intelligent decisions, differentiating between fixed and mobile objects in dynamic environments. Mobile robots with Visual Slam technology create maps that allow them to operate independently, cutting commissioning times from weeks to days, and enabling the AMRs to navigate in complex, dynamic environments alongside people. The maps are updated constantly and can be shared across a fleet, offering instant scalability without interrupting operations and greater flexibility compared to other navigation technologies.

This AI-enabled navigation technology is already transforming the automotive manufacturing and logistics sectors. The car-maker Ford is using ABB AMRs to improve efficiency at sites in the US, while Michelin will use the technology for intralogistics at a factory in Spain. Other automotive manufacturers are implementing the technology in the UK, Finland and Germany.

The technology “paves the way for a shift from linear production lines to dynamic networks,” says Marc Segura, president of ABB’s Robotics division. “Intelligent AMRs autonomously navigate to production cells, tracking stock inventory as they go and sharing this information with other robots, while collaborating safely side-by-side with humans.

ABB says its acquisition of Sevensense makes it the leader in next-generation AMRs

“With the acquisition of Sevensense, ABB becomes the leader in next-generation AMRs,” he adds, “offering Visual Slam in AMRs, together with an integrated portfolio covering robots and machine automation solutions, all managed by our value-creating software.”

Sevensense CEO Gregory Hitz describes the deal as “a significant moment in our shared journey, as we introduce our home-grown technology to a wider range of markets and sectors. ABB is the ideal home for us to continue scaling our versatile platform for 3D visual autonomy, serving OEMs across the automated material-handling and service robotics industries. Together, we will redefine the limits of AI-enabled robotics.”

The technology has the potential to impact robotics beyond AMRs, leading to greater efficiency, flexibility and accuracy across production and intralogistics. It will also be used for applications such as material handling, cleaning and service robotics.

In the period to 2026, the market for mobile robots is expected to grow from $5.5bn to $9.5bn – a CAGR of 20%.

ABB Robotics:  Twitter  LinkedIn  Facebook

Sevensense Robotics:  Twitter  LinkedIn  Facebook

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