This post was guest-authored by Kayla Matthews, technology writer and the editor of Productivity Bytes.

IoT and robotics complement each other nicely, helping to boost efficiency and lower costs. They also improve operations, in general, by introducing smarter, more aware forms of automation.

Until recently, robotics automation — or any automated systems for that matter — has been relatively simple. That doesn’t mean the machinery itself is not complex — just that the duties and tasks they handle are often fairly straightforward. Robots are, after all, designed to handle repetitive tasks that aren’t always fit for human laborers. That’s rapidly changing, however, thanks to the IoT, or internet of things.

The IoT is completely transforming the way that robotics and automation work to the point that operations are almost unrecognizable. To understand how and why it’s happening, one must consider what IoT has to offer.

What Does IoT Look Like in Robotics?

Robotics, specifically, is one field that’s ahead of the curve when it comes to IoT adoption. At this point, the two concepts are evolving in parallel. Sensors are used to present nuanced digital information to the systems, which measure the incoming streams and make decisions or react as necessary. This process allows a robot to do more — so much more.

For instance, instead of just hovering over certain areas and picking up items, the same robots can analyze the goods nearby and make contextual movements. The best way to describe it is a smart robot that not only improves logistics and fulfillment but can do just about everything their human counterparts can. Pneumatic robot arms are basic components with a remote system controlling their movements and responses. Arms that were merely used to pluck goods from an organized setting can now retrieve them from piles or directly from human hands — without harming anyone nearby.

Of course, this is just one example of IoT impacting modern robotics. Here are some additional ways the technology is transforming the robotics field, contributing in innovative and sometimes unexpected waves.

1. IoT Allows Robots to Learn

Robots not only work efficiently, but they can also learn to be better over time with incoming data. This ability promotes an environment of continual improvement where the systems involved aren’t just following a set plan or strategy but constantly evolving. This setup allows robotics applications to become more efficient in unprecedented ways.

It’s all powered by machine learning, a more cognitive approach to data processing modeled after the human brain. A human worker, for instance, who makes a mistake that costs them time — like dropping an item because of a loose grip — will naturally learn and adjust over time so that they don’t repeat the action. Robots can be programmed to do the same, particularly through the datasets they collect and analyze.

2. IoT Powers Co-Bots

Thanks to IoT, more collaborative robots have taken up duties alongside their human counterparts, which allows for more fluid scenarios where the machines and robotics are working alongside human laborers as opposed to replacing them entirely. It leaves room for the human touch, meaning they can handle the more important, nuanced duties while the robots take care of the repetition.

This setup also promotes a safer environment by proxy. Imagine warehouse workers that no longer have to carry burdensome or heavy goods long distances. Robotic companions can be used to transport a variety of items right beside the worker.

3. Data Presents Opportunity

With an influx of useful data, you can build actionable insights about future decisions or events. Suddenly, you have an endless stream of information at your fingertips. Machine learning and AI tools can be used to delve deeper than ever before into the data. They’ll extract relevant insights, which can be used to predict future events, make more informed decisions or even highlight performance trends.

4. It Enables Optimal Synchronization

All IoT devices and platforms can be synced up to improve operations. They talk to one another, basically. A smart shelving system tells a nearby picker that an item is out of place. A manufacturing tool reads errors in output and halts operations to prevent continued defects or damage. The possibilities are endless when an entire system is seamless and more communicative. It creates this smarter, more aware environment or operation as a whole rather than just a single device or component.

IoT Will Elevate Modern Robotics

As the technologies are used in tandem to do some truly amazing things, it will propel both forward in terms of natural evolution. While it’s certainly true that IoT will elevate and transform the field of modern robotics, there’s a lot of back and forth happening too. As enterprises and manufacturers integrate the two technologies, they’re also identifying new ways that IoT can be used in other areas of business. Both promote a landscape of continued improvement and efficiency, which has a huge outpouring of benefits for all who use them.