Edge Executive Insight – Florian Pestoni, CEO and Co-founder, InOrbit – Edge StartUp of the Year FINALIST
In the lead up to Edge Computing World, we’re taking some time to speak to key Executives from the leading companies. Today we’re talking with Florian Pestoni, CEO and Co-founder of InOrbit
Tell us a bit about yourself – what led you to get involved in the edge computing market and InOrbit
I started my career in Research, working as an engineer on bleeding edge image processing, cybersecurity and embedded technologies. I then transitioned to Product Management and the cloud, working on hyper-scale products with hundreds of millions of users. Now at InOrbit, I get to combine both aspects, helping a new generation of smart robots that are coming out of the lab reach the scale we have come to associate with the cloud.
Unlike traditional industrial robots used for manufacturing, which follow a fixed programming and are usually unconnected, newer smart robots are the ultimate edge computing application, using sensors and AI to operate autonomously in unstructured environments.
What is it you & your company are uniquely bringing to the edge market?
At a high level, InOrbit helps reduce waste and acts as a catalyst for the robotics industry.
The time and cost required to bring a robot to market is significant. Robotics companies tend to hire specialized engineering roles, including roboticists, mechatronics engineers, etc. Especially in the early stages, there are so many aspects that need to be addressed to build a reliable robot. This is getting better: in recent times we have seen more software and hardware platforms and solutions, as well as a general trend towards lower component costs. Regardless, getting an autonomous robot from the lab into production requires the team’s full attention.
However, as companies start to scale, they often find that their process for managing robots in the field isn’t up to the task. Basic aspects that we take for granted in the cloud, such as reliable data collection and observability, become a big science project in which the existing team often lacks experience. This stuff isn’t taught in robotics programs (yet.)
InOrbit provides a reliable and secure software infrastructure for robot operations at scale. We are bringing the best practices and tools of DevOps, which have been instrumental in enabling the level of scalability we see in the cloud, to robotics. InOrbit is the leader in the emerging field of RobOps.
Tell us more about the company, what’s your advantages compared to others on the market, who is involved, and what are your major milestones so far?
InOrbit enables robot developers to focus on their differentiators (their secret sauce that makes their robot best suited for a specific task) by handling the critical-yet-common tasks related to managing smart robots in the real world.
One of our patented capabilities is what we call adaptive diagnostics, which allows adjusting the granularity of data collection dynamically based on the need. To understand the importance of this, consider that a single smart robot generates terabytes of data per hour, and a robot fleet of just 100 robots will generate 1 exabyte of data in 1 year – that’s the number one followed by 18 zeroes.
The InOrbit platform uses a distributed architecture including code running in the cloud, at the edge and in any robot regardless of manufacturer. For robots using the Robot Operating System (ROS), it takes under a minute to install and start getting real-time data; other robots can leverage the available SDKs.
InOrbit also works with end users: companies ranging from SMB to large enterprises across all industries that are increasingly relying on smart robots to address labor shortages, supply chain challenges and environmental concerns.
The platform is designed to enable orchestration of robots from multiple OEMs, deployed at multiple sites and in various industries, from supply chain management and hospitality, to facilities management and agriculture.
Current InOrbit customers range from early stage startups, many of them leveraging the most generous Free Edition (unlimited time/unlimited robots), to large multi-billion dollar established companies.
How do you see the edge market developing over the next few years?
With robotics, edge computing is growing a body, arms, wheels, legs and even wings. You can think of robots as AI-driven agents in the physical world.
Whether it’s autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) moving items around a warehouse, AI-driven vision systems controlling robotic arms or drones inspecting power lines, more advanced computing is moving to the edge. Unlike classic IoT devices, most of which are very simple data-collection sensors with minimal computing power, modern robots are driven by powerful processors and integrate with existing systems.
There is currently what I like to call a “Cambrian explosion” of robotics. Just like the era roughly 500 million years ago in which many new life forms emerged on Earth, today we are seeing an explosion in the number of companies developing many different types of robots with increased specialization.
Over the next few years, we will see the classic pattern of expansion and consolidation. The companies that emerge from this process will be the ones who solve a real business problem and can do so at scale.
What are the main trends you see about integrating edge computing into different verticals?
Virtually every industry is being impacted by supply chain disruptions; their need for improvements in sustainability; and the ever-present challenges in access to labor.
In the meantime consumer expectations are higher than ever. When e-commerce launched two decades ago, 7-day delivery was the norm. In the intervening years, delivery expectations have gone from 10,000 minutes to 10 minutes, considering the latest crop of fast-delivery startups.
One key aspect for companies struggling to attract and retain labor is making jobs more appealing to people. Don’t treat them like robots; that’s what robots are for.
This can be achieved by pushing more intelligence to the edge. Smart robots can now check and replenish inventory or spot spills in grocery stores. They can deliver items to consumers’ front steps by driving on sidewalks. They can increase employee productivity by close to 3X in warehouses. And they can identify and zap weeds with lasers in the fields.
It seems that almost every vertical can benefit from this unique form of edge computing as long as they are connected to the cloud. And that’s where InOrbit can help.