Michel Spruijt speaks to AZoRobotics about Brain Corp's development of the world's largest fleet of autonomous cleaning robots and the impact it is having on several markets.
Can you tell us a little bit about what you do as a company and how it was established?
Brain Corp is an AI company creating transformative core technology for the robotics industry. Its headquarters are located in San Diego, California, and Amsterdam.
The company was co-founded in 2009 by world-renowned computational neuroscientist, Dr. Eugene Izhikevich. Brain Corp’s initial work involved advanced R&D for Qualcomm Inc. and DARPA. In 2015, Brain Corp decided to commercialize its BrainOS technology - a cloud-connected operating system for autonomous mobile robots.
Instead of building robots from the ground up, Brain Corp seeks to operate as the “Microsoft of robotics” and provide equipment builders with the AI and autonomy systems necessary to successfully produce their own robotic solutions. BrainOS is now the world’s leading technology provider for the autonomous floor care market, with over 10,000 BrainOS-powered cleaning machines enabled or operating around the world.
What drove Brain Corp to develop the world’s largest autonomous fleet of cleaning robots?
In assessing potential market verticals for its BrainOS technology, Brain Corp considered industries that were using wheeled equipment to accomplish dull, dirty or dangerous tasks. The sheer size of the global commercial cleaning trade, coupled with high turnover rates, made it an ideal opportunity for Brain Corp. Partnerships with some of the world’s leading cleaning equipment manufacturers, including Hako, Kärcher, Nilfisk, and Tennant have been instrumental in successfully rolling out these robotic solutions.
Image Credit: Brain Corp
What is BrainOS and how did you develop the technology that allows the robots to work seamlessly alongside humans?
BrainOS is a cloud-connected operating system for autonomous mobile robots (AMRs). The technology is used by the builders of today's autonomous machines to successfully produce, deploy, and support robots across commercial industries and applications.
BrainOS-powered machines are designed with the end-user in mind. Our autonomous cleaning solutions, for example, still require a human in the loop to “teach” the machine initial routes and help it if it happens to get stuck.
The training and set-up process is very easy, with anyone able to set-up and deploy quickly with no additional infrastructure requirements. With years of experience and thousands of robots in the field, Brain Corp’s fleet can safely and efficiently navigate dynamic, public spaces.
How have your cleaning robots been used so far in the industry?
Brain Corp’s autonomous cleaning solutions have been widely used across the retail industry, including Walmart and Kroger. Other verticals where we have seen successful deployments include airports, healthcare facilities, shopping malls, schools, and warehouses.
Image Credit: Brain Corp.
How is Brain Corp’s fleet helping retailers and other industries on the front line?
Brain Corp’s mission statement is to power autonomous solutions that make the lives of people safer and more productive. During this time of global disruption, we remain committed to this vision and strive to support our partners and their end customers, including the grocers and retailers currently on the front lines, with trusted technology that provides relief.
Autonomous floor care solutions can supplement overstretched teams during these difficult times and free up employees to focus on higher-value tasks such as restocking shelves or disinfecting surfaces.
We are already seeing BrainOS-powered robots provide 250,000 hours of monthly cleaning time that would have been performed by an essential worker. We have also noticed a fleet utilization spike in retail environments of 24% during April 2020 compared to the same month last year - a stat that speaks to the growing value that automation can provide.
Image Credit: Brain Corp.
What is the benefit of utilizing autonomous cleaning technology?
By automating the repetitive aspects of commercial floor care, cleaning providers can offer customers greater consistency and better quality in their everyday operations. The machines themselves will experience a longer run time and decreased wear and tear, further contributing to an overall improvement in cost and capital efficiencies.
The data generated by these robots is also a powerful tool. Robot reporting allows cleaning managers to optimize workflow and validate cleaning performance. Service providers not offering this type of reporting to customers stand to lose out to those who can.
What are the main differences between Brain Corp’s AI-powered robots and other technology on the market?
Brain Corp’s robots are fully autonomous and can operate seamlessly in dynamic, public spaces. Unlike some competitors, BrainOS-powered machines do not require any specialized set-up or support from a technical engineering team. This ease of use, coupled with our status as the industry’s leading autonomy provider, strongly differentiates us from other solutions on the market.
What makes your robots so unique?
Our business model is unique in this industry. Brain Corp partners with leading manufacturers, ensuring a final product that is trusted, cutting-edge and part of a comprehensive support network. End-customers can work with the floor care brands they already know and equip them with world-leading autonomous capabilities.
Brain Corp provides tremendous value from the data and learnings generated by our fleet. With thousands of robots in the field, all BrainOS-powered robots are constantly learning from one another and improving. This scale ensures continuous advanced performance, making our solutions the best performing available.
The coronavirus pandemic has stirred an increased and continuous need for disinfection. How does your robot technology improve cleaning consistency and ensure safety in several industries?
Robots don’t get sick, they don’t quit, and they don’t require breaks. BrainOS-powered cleaning robots ensure that floors are scrubbed multiple times a day and provide managers with the reporting they require to prove that “next level clean” has occurred. The robots can safely operate around people in public spaces, ensuring that cleaning programs can be productive around the clock.
What impact will the autonomous technology have on different applications and industries?
AMRs are designed to handle dull, dangerous or dirty tasks in commercial environments. Applications and industries that feature repetitive activity using wheeled equipment could all potentially benefit from this technology. We are seeing AMR adoption starting to occur across a diverse range of industries, including healthcare, education, transportation, and even heavy industry such as mining.
Do you believe that there will be a greater need for technology such as BrainOS-powered robots in the future?
The recent global pandemic has clearly exhibited the need for businesses to be responsive and nimble in their operations. Retailers, to take just one example, must rearrange their store environments to comply with new safety regulations while also implementing social distancing measures for customers and employees alike. These required changes will be coming in waves across industries for some time, and managers need to do everything possible to minimize disruption.
With that in mind, the adaptability and flexibility provided by AMR technology make it well suited for the businesses of the future. Pre-COVID, ABI Research predicted that the compound annual growth rate for AMRs would be 53% between 2017-2027. I would expect to see an even higher rate as adoption continues.
Do you have any future developments that you would like to discuss?
Brain Corp opened its European offices in 2019, so we will be focusing a large portion of our efforts on scaling floor care sales and supporting our manufacturing partners throughout the region. On top of that, we are poised for strong growth in additional verticals where autonomous mobile robots can add value - primarily delivery and retail shelf scanning.
Where can readers find more information?
Brain Corp Website: www.braincorp.com/europe
Retail Robotics E-Book: https://braincorp.com/
About Michel Spruijt
Michel Spruijt joined Brain Corp as the Vice President and General Manager of Brain Corp Europe in 2019. Michel is responsible for partner support, team expansion, and the oversight of general operations throughout the region.
Prior to joining Brain Corp, Michel held the position of General Manager EMEA at Ergotron. During his 20-year tenure, Michel successfully built cross-functional teams and managed Ergotron’s growth trajectory in EMEA. He held several roles at Ergotron, including management positions in Business Development, Sales, Operations, Customer Care, Technical Support, and Business Operations.
Michel speaks four languages, including Dutch, English, German, and Hungarian, and received a degree from Grafisch Lyceum Utrecht.
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