PLEN ROBOTICS: HARNESSING IOT SOLUTIONS TO AUTOMIZE THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY
PLEN Robotics Inc. established in July 2017, utilizes Robotics, IT, Artificial Intelligence, to produce IoT solutions that automize and streamline the hospitality industry. The company’s first product offering “PLEN Cube”, is a box-shaped AI assistant that uses face recognition and tracking functions to support cashless payments, hotel receptions, drink orders and digitalization of the customer’s behavior history.
PLEN Robotics’ client base includes medical and welfare facilities, accommodation facilities, and the hospitality industry. The company is scaling up its client base to include co-working spaces that come with membership systems. Recently the company developed the PLEN Cube named “PLEN Cube health check version” for protecting essential workers against COVID-19 or any medical problems. The cube can detect human temperatures and ask medical questions, and will be commercially available this month.
PLEN Robotics Inc. was established with the mission of building a social infrastructure to solve the problem of workforce shortage in the service industry. Prior to founding PLEN Robotics, Founder and CEO, Natsuo Akazawa devised and developed a prototype compact AI communicator PLEN Cube, as a solution to workforce scarcity.
A Charismatic Leadership
Natsuo Akazawa is the Founder and CEO of PLEN Robotics. Natsuo aims to support companies and people seeking to counter the problem of a declining workforce by providing them with AI and Service Robot solutions. He believes that the most difficult element into the social implementation of communicators, lies in the communication between humans and machines and UI/UX is the most important technology communicator to overcome this hurdle.
Natsuo asserts that even with a good speech recognition technology like Google and Alexa if people did not feel comfortable, they could not build a good relationship with their communicator. He believes that a simple design communicator with UI/UX capabilities incorporating movements and gestures is suitable to improve user compatibility for social implementation.
Leveraging Robotics Technology for Mutual Collaboration
The company believes that robotics will take on a lot of roles in the future under the influence of COVID-19. PLEN Robotics is focused on developing a communicator for the service industry to reduce the risk of human contact and comfortable user adoption. The non-intrusive body temperature health check-up version of the PLEN Cube scheduled to release in July 2020 combines the measurement of body temperature and a medical questionnaire, to let all people monitor their health with an affordable device.
The AI assistant-PLEN Cube communicator is not a large-scale system, but an affordable one with edge computing solutions perfect for proving robotics technology used in the field of human activity. Leading to the introduction of robotics to protect essential workers at hospitals, nursing facilities, etc. against infection, the company visions that it will be able to mount this service to the Robotics industry in the US.
Partnership that Drives Innovation
Natsuo adds that “at PLEN Robotics we don’t do self-sufficient development and don’t want to”.
PLEN Robotics has always credited its communicator services to create and add communication with its partner customers. The company believes that as the number of customers increase, its services will be synergistically enhanced to develop into something that blends into society. The company values its each and every customer as an important partnership that drives its innovation goals.
Fostering Intelligent Technologies
PLEN Robotics focuses on paying attention to not only software but also to various kinds of intelligent hardware networks created to help people. The company estimates that in 2025, 20 billion global IoT products will be shipped in one year, aggregating to a cumulative total of over 80 billion products all over the world.
To support this vast number of services, in addition to artificial intelligence and machine learning, edge computing and edge AI technologies are essential, and indispensable for IoT innovation. The company is developing a communicator that utilizes these technologies.
Remarkable Awards for Achievements
PLEN Cube communicator was recognized at the Monozukuri Hardware Cup for Japan-based hardware startups, where it stood at second place in the competition. It was also awarded the A’Design Award (Radical Innovation and New Technologies Design Category: Bronze 2017) and International Design Award: Bronze 2017.
Additionally, Natsuo was awarded Gold at the 2006 and 2007 Robo Games (Freestyle/Acrobat category).
Overcoming the Challenges to Succeed
Most startup companies which entertain lofty ideals have the problem of fundraising but PLEN Robotics overcome it with strong support from investors after successfully raising funds on the world’s largest crowd-funding platform. The company has successfully raised CNY21 Million to date.
Not only this, but it also had to run together with its competitors with the latest technology innovations in the world, sometimes even had to run faster than them. Before finishing to mount a similar technology to its product, the bigger companies had already finished to mount it. However, it felt affinity overcoming challenges, mounting the newest technology before competitors, for example, the UI/UX. The actuation settings made it come true.
Insights into the Future of Robotics
Disruptive technologies like Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning/Deep Learning/Automation/Cloud Computing now include Edge Computing capabilities. With this inclusion, Natsuo views that the Robotics industry is coming to a growth stage truly valuable for helping people. He further adds that, as COVID-19 expands around the world, intelligent machines will have to handle a lot of tasks more than now. All players related to the Robotics industry have a greater responsibility to foster partnerships to a collaborative future ahead.