November 19, 2021
ABB is entering into a strategic partnership with Swiss-based start-up Sevensense, founded in 2018 as a spin-off from ETH Zurich, to enhance ABB’s new autonomous mobile robotics (AMR) offering with artificial intelligence (AI) and 3D vision mapping technology. The technology will offer customers unprecedented levels of flexibility as mobile robots will be able to navigate autonomously in complex, dynamic indoor and outdoor environments close to people.
The partnership is another important step in ABB’s strategy to drive the next generation of flexible automation and expand ABB’s robotics and automation portfolio, following its acquisition of ASTI Mobile Robotics, a major global AMR manufacturer, announced in July 2021. The partnership includes a minority investment in Sevensense through ABB’s venture capital unit, ABB Technology Ventures, which is expected to close by the end of November 2021.
“Building on our acquisition of ASTI Mobile Robotics earlier this year, our partnership with Sevensense is another milestone in our efforts to fully unlock flexible automation for our customers,” said Sami Atiya, President of ABB Robotics & Discrete Automation. “Integrating Sevensense’s AI and 3D mapping technology with our AMR offering will help accelerate the replacement of today’s linear production lines with fully flexible networks. Our vision of the future workplace is one in which AMRs move materials, parts and finished products between smart workstations in increasingly unstructured, dynamic work environments and our partnership with Sevensense is an important step in realizing that vision.”
The Sevensense navigation technology uses advanced computer vision and AI algorithms to create a 3D map that is more accurate than today’s 2D solutions, leading to superior navigation capabilities, and more cost-effective solutions than laser scanner-based navigation. An AMR equipped with 3D Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) technology will be able to accurately interpret its environment, identify a person, a pallet or another robot and autonomously make decisions to navigate around these obstacles. This level of intelligence will enable safer human-machine interactions and ensure material flows around factories and warehouses are safe and efficient for maximum flexibility and productivity.
Gregory Hitz, CEO of Sevensense Robotics, said: “This is a great step for us, coming at the right time. Partnering with ABB lays the foundation for a long-term collaboration, while retaining our complete independence as a business. It allows us to mutually benefit from our expertise and create the best product for all of our customers in the long run. At the same time, the investment by ABB gives us planning security. We are very much looking forward to lifting our technology to a global scale and establishing Sevensense at the top of AI supported vision and navigation companies globally.”
ABB will integrate Sevensense’s soft- and hardware technology into ABB’s AMR offering, with pilot customer projects planned in 2022.
Sevensense was selected to partner with ABB Robotics after participating in the 2021 ABB Robotics Innovation Challenge, which evaluated the performance of a range of Visual SLAM solutions from multiple global technology businesses.