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Mobile robot sector stronger than story suggested

The story “Rooting for Robots” in February’s VCJ quoted me on perceived risks of investing with robots. I think the quotes were misleading and the article overly dismissive of the entire field of mobile robots. As in any sector, there are good and bad robotics plays.

First, to correct the record, MobileRobots Inc. has never put together a solicitation package for investors. I have talked with angels, investment banks and M&A/IPO consultants to learn what to expect when we do so.

The commercial/industrial market for robots—the one served by MobileRobots—has matured markedly, particularly in manufacturing, hospital and security verticals. In factories, our OEMs’ fleets run over a million miles annually. In hospitals, robots such as SpeciMinder, built on MobileRobots’ technologies, have also run over a year in referenceable sites. Security is probably 18 months behind, but with larger potential due to increasing theft rates, HR problems, internally aided loss and job hazards.

But the real play is not just standalone robots; it’s enterprise systems for BIM/EIM. A computer is only a computer until you attach it to the Internet and turn it into an ecommerce portal. Likewise, the value of robots increases exponentially through back-end systems off the bot. Robots collect information, communicate with people and handle objects remotely and automatically as a component of BIM/EIM.

For instance, Penobscot Bay Media uses our patented LaserPlans to scan facility interiors. As keynoted at ESRI’s latest conference, PenBay converts resulting maps so that buildings and grounds can be explored in 3D, learning occupant’s name, radiation levels, asset location, etc. Robots can update the information automatically. In January 2009, PenBay closed as much business as all 2008, a good year.

Thus, while I agree that investments in robotic housemaids are foolish, investors should not discount the entire field of mobile robots.

Jeanne Dietsch, CEO, MobileRobots Inc.