We live in the century of robots. The use is growing exponentially and on a broad front. Robots will become much more common in all parts of the economy and in all parts of society. Established suppliers benefit from growth, but are challenged by new players entering the market. The development also requires users to understand the development and seize the opportunities to avoid a declining competitiveness.

Although robotic use is almost 50 years old, growth has now entered a new phase. The number of industrial robots have increased by more than 50 percent over the past five years. But perhaps the most important trend is that robots are being used to a greater extent outside the industry. The fact that there were 230 000 industrial robots sold in 2014 was impressive, and a record, but that is to be compared with the sale of four million robotic vacuum cleaners and one and a half million drones that year.

The driving force is that robots, increasingly and at an accelerating rate are cost-effective solutions that can be applied in a variety of areas. This report shows that this is not a temporary increase. The combination of higher functionality, lower prices and a growing need indicated that we are in the beginning of an extended growth phase. The consequences of growth are two-dimensional.

First, it means market opportunities for developers and manufacturers of robots. Cost pressures and increased functionality open up new segments. Robots for smaller companies and for consumers provide volumes that push costs. Open source code, system circuits and cheap, easily accessible components make developing products easier than ever.

Second, the increasing use has major consequences for productivity development, which affects companies’ production strategies and also the overall economy. Increased robotization will mean changes in how work is organized and performed, not least in service sectors where robots have not previously existed. There is great potential, but it also brings with it significant challenges.

This study provides an overview of the robotics markets and the evolution of robotics globally. However, it is not a uniform, easily delimited area. Robotics is part of a major transformation, driven by digitalization and automation. Therefore, no single technology area or common market covers all aspects of development. The market structure in different segments looks different, and is often highly fragmented. This is especially true for non-industrial applications.

At the same time there are common denominators, as many technological advances can be applied in many solutions. An example is machine vision, which is just as important for some industrial robots as for driverless vehicles. This means that the development is characterized by a dynamic, where “new” players enter the market. Some are startups, while others, such as Google and Amazon, have significant resources and come from completely different industries and with different core competencies. The synergies that exist in technology and application mean that there is likely to be significant industry drift and continued consolidation within the sub-segments.

This study describes where development takes place, what opportunities and obstacles exist, how the market changes and which players drive the development. It also discusses the likely social effects of more data being taken over by robots.