The concept of software as a service has grown in recent years. Now, an ABI Research report says robotics as a service (RaaS) could be one of the next service sectors to take off.

According to ABI, robotics manufacturers are keen on leasing or renting their systems to customers as a full service, as margin pressures make it more difficult to them to sustain profitability by just selling robots. Overall, ABI Research estimates that the installed base for RaaS will grow from 4,442 units in 2016 to 1.3 million in 2026. The yearly revenue from RaaS providers is expected to increase from US$217 million in 2016 to nearly US$34 billion in 2026.

"This will make the yearly revenue of RaaS providers (including all payments for services) greater than the shipment revenues for industrial robots, which currently accounts for the lion's share of the robotics industry in terms of revenue," said Rian Whitton, Research Analyst at ABI Research, in the report.

The RaaS installed base over 10 years between 2016 and 2026 is characterized by a very large CAGR of 66 percent. This is particularly prevalent in the markets with the largest RaaS installed base, namely logistics, manufacturing, and hospitality, over the 10-year forecast.

RaaS is expected to be a win-win for end users and service providers alike. End users stand to benefit from RaaS, because they can now shift their capital expenditure (CAPEX) to an operational expenditure (OPEX), allowing them to deploy solutions without large upfront costs.  RaaS providers, in turn, benefit from a steady stream of income. 

But to achieve this growth, the report concludes, robotics companies will need to better educate users on the benefits of migrating to an OPEX model instead of a CAPEX-driven model. Companies such as Aethon, Locus Robotics, Savioke, and Sarcos Robotics are offering a RaaS model for their enterprise clients, says the report.

Logistics is currently the biggest market, but there are plenty of potentials across various verticals, according to ABI Research "Robotics-as-a-service will bring robotics to new sectors that have not previously had significant robotic adoption, such as agriculture, security & surveillance, retail, hospitality, oil & gas, and waste management to name just a few," concludes Whitton.