Innovation

Peter Cochrane's Blog: Will robots make our smartphones smarter?

Changes to Far East production lines will tranform our smartphones and tablets...

Smartphone reliability and performance have been remarkable good, despite many of the devices being assembled by hand

Smartphone reliability and performance have been remarkable good, despite many of the devices being assembled by handPhoto: Shutterstock

Written in my Kuala Lumpur hotel and dispatched to silicon.com a week later from Dohar via a 3G connection.

As I travel the planet, I get to visit a wide variety of industrial installations spanning the East, West, developed and developing world. And I am always struck by the repeated histories of progress.

At various stages in my life I have been involved either in getting products into production, building production facilities or consulting on their operation. So as I travel in the Far East I now see facilities that resemble those found in the West 20 or more years ago.

Here the operations are mostly people-intense and founded on an endless supply of cheap labour. But in several countries this approach is breaking down as the availability of people is starting to dry up and the competition from newcomers is starting to bite at the cost structure.

There is also another mechanism at work. Global demand in terms of numbers and speed of product evolution is outpacing basic human abilities. So, on both counts there is now the start of a wholesale move to robots to replace people.

Another way of looking at this issue is that demand for a number of products such as mobile phones and tablets has reached that same point where Western chip production had to abandon the use of people and get into robotics and automation. Déj

About Peter Cochrane

Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant. He is the former CTO and head of research at BT, with a career in telecoms and IT spanning more than 40 years.

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