Energy Robotics Introduces a Pilot Program with Merck and Boston Dynamics
Energy Robotics is a leading developer of software solutions for mobile robots used in industrial applications, announces today that its remote sensing and inspection solution for Boston Dynamics’s agile mobile robot Spot was successfully placed at Merck’s thermal exhaust treatment plant at its headquarters in Darmstadt, Germany. Energy Robotics laden Spot with sensor technology and remote supervision functions will support the inspection mission.
Thermal exhaust treatment facilities play a vital role in environmental protection. They contain numerous maintenance-intensive components that should be monitored frequently. Sensors traditionally held by a human doing routine inspection are utilized to detect anomalies in equipment like the pumps or fans and inspect pressure and fluid levels in tanks. Energy Robotics integrated these sensors with Spot to make the condition monitoring more efficient. With sensors such as thermal and zoom, cameras Spot collected data that was transferred by encrypted communication over the public 4G network to the operator’s web-based interface on PC or tablet.
By automating a path via their facility, Merck and Energy Robotics gained a smooth and successful mission totaling one hour for a course through a multi-story facility, with the robot negotiating numerous industrial stairs. At scale, such kind of robotic inspections can increase the facility performance monitoring frequency and consistency. Using a more critical, more diverse data set automatically collected by the robots might significantly enhance the long-term predictive maintenance efficiency. This kind of scaled equipment monitoring would also make environmental protection efforts more effective.
This kind of routine monitoring is essential but dull and uncomfortable. The Spot allows performing physically demanding tasks in confined, hot, and noisy spaces. The robot also provides regular maintenance and asset performance data in a reproducible, high-quality manner.
What appears to be comfortable and efficient results from enormous worldwide progress in robotic software and hardware development.
“Merck is one of the first companies in Europe testing Spot. The pilot with our new partners Energy Robotics and Boston Dynamics shows the state of the art in autonomous robotics,” said Hartmut Manske, Head of Automation and Robotics at Merck. “We are convinced that robots like Spot can efficiently and reliably support remotely supervised missions at our plants.”
NextStep Robotics raises $500K While Eying the Introduction of the product:
The bridge round included participation from a pair of previous investors in the company. Maryland Momentum Fund, the venture fund of the University System of Maryland, invested $25,000 — the same amount it did in 2018 when NextStep became the then-nascent fund’s second investment. The Baltimore-based Abell Foundation, which makes early-stage investments to create jobs in Baltimore, also returned as an investor and a new investor University of Maryland Global Campus.
Born out of a decade of research at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and Baltimore Veterans Affairs Motor Performance Laboratory, the three-year-old company’s robotic device, and software are designed to treat foot drop, limiting a patient’s ability to lift a toe while walking. The device, called AMBLE, is worn by patients during therapy. The product also has a software component that uses AI and assigns training.
The CEO of the company Brad Hennessie said that funding would help NextStep as it works toward product launch and initial device placement with physical therapists.
Based out of downtown Baltimore medtechstartup studio, the Maryland Development Center has received a mix of investment and grant funding, including a cooperative agreement with the National Institute of Health National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke worth up to $5.4 million. Through this, NIH researchers served as the principal investigator on the research, and the company collaborated to create a pathway for the technology to be reimbursed via existing health insurance codes.
Hennessie has been a passionate voice for entrepreneurship that gets research from universities out into broader use. And like many founders, he is also looking ahead while moving the current project: The company sees additional treatment uses for the underlying technology and recently received a grant through the Maryland Industrial Partnerships to explore arm training support with University of Maryland School of Medicine Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science professor Dr. Kelly Westlake.
Hennessie also said that they plan to first establish AMBLE as the ‘standard of care’ for foot drop, but they see great potential to develop other devices that, combined with their AI software, and will be able to address other disabilities.
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