​Why middleware to manage robots will have to come to a home near you

The march of the home helper robots is underway. You just know this is going to result in a management headache for the amateur IT person.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

LG Hub Robot

Image: Supplied

There is an army of robot helpers rolling out in 2017 and management and integration issues won't be too far behind.

One of the key themes at CES 2017 was the march of the robots. LG kicked off CES with three robots to run your home, cut your lawn and help you get around an airport. And to hear LG execs tell it more robots are on the way.

Now if we lived in a one tech vendor world, perhaps this army of robots wouldn't be so daunting.

But despite vendors promising out-of-the-box integration we all know there will be a variety of robots in the house. Some of these robots will talk to each others. Most of these robots won't.

CNET held a robotics panel talking about how these devices will shape our lives. CNET also recapped Pepper, Softbank's robot, playing cards and a barista. Indeed, CNET's running list of robots launched at CES reads like a football team roster:

  • Kuri by Mayfield Robotics is a robot nanny that charms the kids and watches your place.
  • UBTech's Lynx Robot gives Amazon's assistant a face, a body, arms and legs.
  • Bosch's Mikie, the countertop robot who wants to be your sous chef.
  • Hub Robot: LG essentially took a smart speaker and jammed it into a cute, mobile robot.
  • Robo Mower: Feeling lazy about mowing the lawn? LG has a robot that will do it for you.
  • Airbot: Taking the robot concept further, LG also unveiled an airport guide robot, which will appear at Incheon airport in South Korea later this year.
  • Lego Boost, coming later this year, turns all your Lego constructions into robots.
  • Leka is designed to help special-needs children better understand social and visual cues.
  • Ziro is a kit that lets you build robots and control them with just your hand.
  • Neato's robot vac will now respond to cues via Facebook Messenger.
  • Ewaybot MoRo is a robotic assistant designed to simplify your life... for $30,000.
  • Emotech's Olly bridges the divide between smart home hubs and smart home robots.
  • Aristotle by Nabi is part robot, part baby monitor.
  • Laundroid will sort and fold your clothes. One less chore for you.

A few of these robots looked interesting, but I quickly started thinking about dashboards and management. When the average home has a handful of robots who is going to manage them?

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Answering that question won't be easy. After all, Apple will ultimately want you to buy into its ecosystem and robot platform. The Android community will splinter and make it hard to aggregate management and data. Amazon's Alexa could be the smart home operating system and will be everywhere. Microsoft will be there too.

But if you thought wearable technology was hard to integrate across platforms just imagine how tricky robots are going to be.

Will we all be talking about robotics process automation and middleware? Probably not, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't.

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