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Who will be the leader in the service robot?

Who will be the leader in the service robot?

Service robot is the next big opportunity

In recent years, the biggest opportunity in the market is undoubtedly the electrification and intelligence of automobiles, which has brought a lot of investment opportunities and spawned the Ningde era with a market value of trillions, as well as a number of industrial chain companies and automobiles with a market value of more than 100 billion. terminal company. Now that the investment opportunities in the new energy vehicle sector have reached the middle stage, it is necessary to find the next historical level of big opportunities.

1/ Where will this opportunity be?

I recently communicated with a star fund manager. When explaining the investment method, the other party said that the first step in stock selection is to look at the long-term track, first brainstorm to select 30 or 40 clues at the medium and long-term strategic level, and can make a lot of money direction, to choose a high ceiling. The long-term track is theoretically the direction of future life, which is in line with industry trends and the trend of the times. From the perspective of ten years or five years, what changes will be expected in life. The future growth of leading companies that are changing will definitely rush to the forefront.

It reflects the direction of future life and conforms to the industry trend and the trend of the times. What specific industries have such potential? A simple and long-term hard logic is that my country's population growth potential is declining, and young people would rather deliver food and express delivery than do repetitive assembly-line work. In the future, it is an inevitable and necessary trend that machines replace humans to do jobs that people are unwilling to do.

From this perspective, service robot are a big opportunity for the future. Although the scale is not large now, with an overall scale of only about 30 billion, it has shown great potential. There is a growing shortage of service personnel, and the rise in technical capabilities will improve the ability of robots to solve practical problems. It is foreseeable that service robot are about to usher in an industrial explosion.

Just as electric vehicles will replace traditional fuel vehicles, and service robot will replace people in boring, repetitive, and dangerous jobs, opportunities always arise in such changes. Of course, the current form of service robot cannot bear the expectations of the future. From the degree of intelligence defined by software to the flexibility of robots defined by hardware, it still needs leading companies to improve and define them, so that service robot have smart hands. And the wise brain really has the ability to replace people. Just like electric cars are really popular, not because of subsidies, but because the experience is indeed better than traditional cars. Service robot have a bright future, but there is a long way to go.

2/ A historic opportunity  comparable to an electric car track

Now we have seen service robot in different scenarios, with different shapes and functions. There are sweeping robots running at home, guide robots and cleaning robots parked in shopping malls, and food delivery robots in hotels and restaurants. Service robot are not far from us.

The current market size of service robot is not large. A report released by the Chinese Institute of Electronics shows that in 2021, the size of China's service robot market is 30.26 billion yuan; by 2023, it is expected to exceed 60 billion yuan, which is in the early stage of industrialization, but the growth rate is very impressive.

Service robot have big logic for long-term growth. As the population ages and young people are reluctant to have children, future labor shortages are inevitable. Data show that by the end of 2021, my country's population will only increase by 480,000 from the end of the previous year, setting a record low. In 2021, the birth rate will be 7.52‰; the death rate will be 7.18‰; the natural population growth rate will be 0.34‰, which is also a record low.

Even if the downward trend of the population can be controlled, the future employment structure will undergo great changes - young people will not choose to do simple, repetitive and low-achieving jobs, and today's young people no longer want to work on assembly lines. Under the trend of aging, there will be a huge gap in labor demand for the company and daily care of the elderly.

Only robots can solve this problem. Robots have many advantages, for example, they can work 7×24 hours; to take care of the elderly, one nurse can direct multiple robots to serve the elderly. In the future, there will be huge market space for service robot in the fields of home care, hotel restaurant services, cleaning, and agricultural planting. The demand in each field is enormous. Taking the home nanny robot as an example, Huang Xiaoqing, founder of Dada, believes that there are 450 million households in China. Assuming that 100 million robot nanny will be rented out in 2035, each nanny will receive 3,000 yuan per month, which is 300 billion per month, and 300 billion in one year. 3.6 trillion.

There are also many scenarios that can be standardized - such as greenhouse picking in agriculture, cotton picking, etc. The service robot developed by Dash has been applied in the picking scene, which can save manpower and realize long-term operation. In Huang Xiaoqing's view, agriculture is a huge market. There are about 150 million mu of greenhouses and greenhouses in China. The labor cost of picking round fruits in China alone exceeds 300 billion yuan per year. The application space of robots in the future very broad.

Combined with many vertical segments, the size of the service robot market is beyond imagination.
In fact, VC/PE has already seen the broad prospects of this track. Statistics show that in 2021, there will be 113 financing events related to the service robot track, with a total financing amount exceeding 44 billion yuan. Among the leading companies, Dash Robot completed the B+ round of financing of over 1 billion yuan; Purdue Technology completed the C round of financing of 500 million yuan; the delivery robot Candela completed the B round of financing of 375 million yuan.

Industrial capital also came. Tesla also said in August last year that it will be a robot, and it is a humanoid robot that can be placed in a car and help people do some chores. A physical version of the robot, which could be available next year, is designed to handle unsafe, repetitive and boring jobs. The global car is a $2.6 trillion market, and the global workforce is a $38 trillion market, more than 10 times the size of cars. In the future, physical work will be an option, you can do it if you want, or not if you don't.

The logic behind it is not difficult to understand - there are too many labor jobs that people are unwilling to do, leaving too much space for robots to serve. In terms of imagination alone, the service robot market is bigger than smart cars.

3/Reality is very skinny,   why haven't service robot exploded yet?

The prospects are bright, but it does not mean that the current service robot industry is worth so much money. For many investors, they will not buy an industry with a market penetration rate of less than 5% because the industry is too early, the variables are too large, and the certainty is not strong enough.

The reality is indeed the case. Today's service robot face many variables. In terms of function, many robots are still relatively tasteless. They stand in shopping malls to give directions and prompt coupons, which are optional and have no unique value. However, when a service robot takes care of people in a family scene, the flexibility is still too poor, and the bending of the upper and lower limbs, going up and downstairs, load-bearing capacity, and walking stability, all still have relatively large technical challenges. Intelligence is also a big problem. Only some simple input instructions can be completed, complex problems cannot be handled, and self-learning ability is even more insufficient.
In terms of cost, at least the price of tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands, the cost-benefit ratio is not good enough, so that the merchants on the B side and the users on the C side feel that there is no just need to buy it.
Service robot, in the eyes of many people, are still a big toy, not a productivity tool.

In order to reach the expected industrial scale in the next ten years, and quickly pass through the early stage of low penetration in recent years, service robot need the advancement of technology and products to improve the robot's ability to solve problems in actual scenarios, so that robots have value for money. Take the sweeping robot as an example. It has been growing rapidly in recent years. It is precisely because it has solved the engineering problems such as obstacle avoidance and sweeping and mopping, so that the robot truly has the ability to sweep the floor like a human, and is no longer regarded as a toy by people.

In order for the entire service robot to usher in an outbreak, it is also necessary to develop the ability to solve problems in specific scenarios. Specifically include:
First, the brain passes the test. Robots must be intelligent enough to have industry knowledge and the ability to deal with complex problems in specific scenarios through autonomous learning. This requires constant upgrades in the cloud. Improve intelligence through cloud data, much like Tesla. It is difficult to ensure the improvement of the robot's intelligence level only by relying on the computing power provided by the chip of the Ontology, because the amount of data that can be collected and processed is too small.

Second, the hardware clearance. Breakthroughs must be made in core components such as joints, sensors, and materials, among which the standardization, intelligence, and low cost of joints are the pain points. The core of the robot's problem-solving is to have enough flexibility. The high flexibility of humans is largely due to the many joints on the body. Robots, especially humanoid robots that will undertake more tasks in the future, need stronger development and production capabilities in joints. This is also a common problem in many industries in my country. It has assembly ability, lacks technical strength in core components, and is controlled by others. Therefore, it is necessary to have the ability to replace or even surpass foreign products in core components such as joints, so that the robot is more flexible and maneuverable, and can work like a human in complex scenes.

Therefore, for service robot, both software and hardware need to be greatly improved. In this regard, the domestic service robot industry is in a process of accumulating quantitative changes to trigger qualitative changes. Taking the leading enterprise Dash Robot as an example, in terms of hardware, major technological breakthroughs have been made in the most complex intelligent joints in the execution system, which can enable the robot to complete many complex actions and greatly improve the efficiency of the robot. At the software level, cloud capabilities enable the accumulated massive data to be quickly processed in the cloud, allowing robots to quickly understand complex environments and make reasonable decisions. At present, Datsun robots have been used in retail reception, security distribution, education, agriculture and other scenarios. The robot is no longer a decoration, but a productivity that can really solve problems in real scenarios.

This is also very similar to smart electric vehicles. The hardware must pass the test, and the software must accumulate and process data to improve the level of intelligence, so that cars and robots are no longer pure machines, but data-driven organisms.

4/ Who will be the leader in the service robot arena   ?

There is no doubt that the current service robot is still in the early stage of the industry.  Just like whether VR can detonate the metaverse, the future depends on how Apple's new products are defined; the direction of smart cars depends on Tesla's technology and product line.

Service robot also need the makers and definers of the industry's development path to point out a path for the entire industry, through which capabilities can be upgraded. Judging from the choice of strategic route and the current development situation, Dash Robot is playing such a role.

Founded in 2015, Cloud Robotics has considerable strength in terms of cloud software, computing power, communication, etc., as well as the robot body on the hardware side, and core components such as joints. Currently, it has served more than 2,400 companies in the industry chain. client. Commercialization has begun in multiple vertical industries such as commercial retail, public health, communications, education, public safety, power energy, agriculture, and sanitation.

In the eyes of those who are not familiar with the robotics industry, the products made by Datsun Robot and traditional robotics companies are generally the same, but the scenarios are different. But there is actually a big difference between the two. Traditional robot companies are positioned as robot companies, while Dash has become a service robot platform company through the upgrade of cloud intelligence and high-end manufacturing software and hardware.

Traditional robotics companies are hardware thinking. On the basis of hardware, the robot has limited computing power through the computing power of the ontology and the edge. This kind of route determines that the ceiling of the robot's intelligence is extremely low. In fact, Dada Robot started from the deployment of cloud brain and artificial intelligence. When it found that the robot body on the market was not good enough, it only made the body hardware. When it is found that the key components are not strong enough, the core components such as smart joints are developed. The logical starting point is the cloud brain, and the end point is the intelligent and sustainable improvement of robots. Cloud computing, artificial intelligence, digital twins, human-computer integration intelligence, network security, blockchain, cloud intelligent control and other aspects have reserved related technologies, and key artificial intelligence fields such as natural language processing, computer vision and autonomous navigation Established an industry-leading position. This makes more room for intelligent improvement of Dash's service robot.

The logical starting point of traditional robot companies is to build the hardware first, and then consider the problem of intelligence. This route is difficult to bring a smart enough service robot, and the ability to solve practical problems will be very limited.

From the perspective of hardware, the idea of ​​​​Data Robot is to first solve the core technology of stuck neck. Robot companies with core competitiveness must make breakthroughs in core components and cannot be satisfied with just being an assembly plant. Dash has developed and mass-produced the Smart Flexible Joint (SCA), which integrates various components such as motors, motor drives, reducers, sensors, high-speed communication, external expansion interfaces, and real-time operating systems, becoming the core motion components and control of robots. Communication nodes make the robot's body movements more flexible and reliable, and adapt to more scenarios.

Different from robot companies that choose the OEM and asset-light model, Dash is a high-end equipment manufacturing company. The intelligent robot "Data New Town", which covers an area of ​​243 acres in Shanghai, is about to be completed. After the industrial base project is put into production, the annual production of robot joints is expected to reach 10 million sets.

From the cloud to the ontology to key components, deploying smart factories, allowing industrial robots to produce service robot, flexible actuators, smart joints and other technologies, companies with end-to-end full-stack capabilities to master the entire industry chain will be even more disrupted This is similar to the development path of Tesla back then.

The path of Dart Robot is platform thinking. Dash has both software and hardware advantages. Excellent external robots can be connected to Dash's cloud system to improve the level of intelligence.  The core components and intelligent manufacturing capabilities of Dash can also be opened to the industry.

For example, the Smart Flexible Joint (SCA) developed by CloudMind breaks through the limitations of standardization and integration of key robot components, and can provide standardized robot joint modules for all robot manufacturers, which can be used by any robot body manufacturer. The service robot needed for SCA's rapid assembly. At present, hundreds of robotics, medical, scientific research and other partners have joined the Dash SCA ecological construction. Relying on SCA, Dash was approved as a strategic emerging industry project in Shanghai in 2021, which is the project with the most support since the establishment of the special project. At present, more than 100 ecological customers are using Cloud SCA, including medical robots, rehabilitation robots, special robots, etc., which are at the leading level in China.

Datalink aims to become a platform-level company in the entire service robot industry. This is the value of leading companies. Both software and hardware can empower the industry and drive the development of the industry.

5/ How much is the service robot head company worth?

More and more service robot companies are preparing to enter the capital market, and the leading companies in the platform will obviously receive more attention. Whether it is the promotion of its own robot body sales and scene solutions, or the revenue from providing core components to ecological partners in the industry, as well as the empowerment of cloud intelligence, the revenue of leading companies will grow rapidly.

The take-off of leading enterprises can also feed back the development of the robot industry. Leading enterprises provide core software and hardware for the industry, improve the industry level, expand the ecology, and promote the entire industry to enter a virtuous circle, and the market scale and penetration rate can continue to increase.

In the current domestic market environment, the market recognizes high-end manufacturing, and hardware is easier to sell than software. When there is enough hardware and the penetration rate is high enough, the next step is the demand for cloud intelligence.

Therefore, the valuation acceptable to the market at this stage is more at the hardware and high-end manufacturing level.

Judging from the listed service robot companies such as Ecovacs and Stone Technology, everyone pays more for hardware, and software upgrades have not yet formed a business. Unlike smart cars, Tesla already has self-driving software packages as a source of revenue. From this perspective, there are hardware products and scenario solutions in the near future, and there is an intelligent revolution in software-defined robots far away, which constitutes the short-term and medium- and long-term valuation logic of service robot.

 At the moment when the market conditions are not good, the market values ​​of the two are still around 60 billion and 30 billion respectively. The revenue and profit scale of the two have also reached a certain order of magnitude. For example, Stone Technology's revenue and profit last year were 5.8 billion yuan and 1.4 billion yuan respectively.

Why is the valuation of sweeping robots relatively high? Some investors once said that the barriers to the sweeping robot are not high, but it does not prevent it from having an explosive process. This product really solves the pain points of consumers, and it is especially suitable for Chinese people by combining sweeping and dragging.

In the final analysis, the good valuation of the sweeper stems from solving the actual problems of users, resulting in a rapid increase in sales and penetration. Only when the penetration rate reaches a certain stage can it be possible to talk about valuation, otherwise it is too early. Of course, the valuation of sweepers has dropped a lot from the high point. The core reason is that the barriers are not high, and the entry of new entrants can easily make the industry structure worse. This is a situation that fund managers do not like.

From the rise and fall of sweeper valuations, the valuation principles of service robot can be explored.

First of all, only industries and products that have begun to realize the rapid increase in product volume and penetration rate can obtain better valuations. This means that the product has the ability to solve practical problems, has been proven by the market, and can be reflected in the rapidly growing revenue and profits.

At present, the service robot market is already in a stage of rapid penetration rate. It has a good penetration rate in service, cleaning, security, delivery and other scenarios, and has entered a stage of rapid promotion; in addition, in commercial retail, public health, communication, education, etc. , public safety, power energy, agriculture, sanitation and other labor shortage fields, service robot are forming more mature solutions, forming benchmark cases, reflecting value, and will soon enter the stage of scale.

Secondly, whether the subsequent valuation can be improved and whether the performance growth can be maintained depends on whether the barriers are high enough. If the barriers are low, there will be a large number of new entrants, breaking the market structure of the industry and breaking the previous high valuation.

Where are the barriers to service robot? There are barriers in both hardware and software. In terms of hardware, there must be breakthroughs in core components to achieve independent and controllable core links and high-end manufacturing capabilities. In terms of software, the computing power of edge and ontology can be used to improve the degree of intelligence. It is limited, and the increase in computing power in the cloud is a very high barrier.

The cloud brain brings the continuous improvement of artificial intelligence capabilities. At the same time, the more robots supported by the platform and big data, the higher the intelligence level of the robot and the lower the cost. The high barriers formed in this way do not have platform capabilities. The enterprise cannot overcome.

Only companies that truly break through the core technology will form real barriers. Whether it is at the software or hardware level, Dash has completed a large number of technical challenges. As of December 31, 2021, Dash has applied for 2,153 patents. In the field of cloud robotics The number of patents is number one in the world.