|By Tyron Stading||
|March 5, 2017 03:00 PM EST||
Patents are a unique source of data that links commerce and technology. Recently, Innography and CPA Global published two reports analyzing which companies are innovating, what new products are being developed, and where the technology state-of-the-art is headed in robotics and spaceflight.
In Robot Innovation: Surprising Trends Behind the IP of Autonomous Robot Technology, Innography experts discuss how autonomous robots are disrupting large industries and propelling the development of entirely new product lines - from self-driving cars, to farming and mining machines, to manufacturing and domestic robots. Key findings from the research include:
- The auto industry has been extremely proactive in investing in autonomous vehicle research, with patent applications, partnerships and acquisitions driving the development of new products. For example, Ford filed a patent for an automotive drone deployment system that covers flying drones scouting ahead for self-driving cars.
- While GM was the top filer for several years, Alphabet (parent company of Google) leapt ahead in 2015 and has continued to extend its lead in 2016.
- Alphabet represents only two percent of the total patents filed, indicating a high number of patent filers in robotics worldwide. With so many companies expanding into these technology areas, the lack of any dominant patent filers implies that there will likely be many intellectual property collisions in the future.
- Self-driving vehicles represent nearly half of the patent grants and applications for autonomous robots, with the remaining balance including numerous use cases such as a robot that plays games with humans, a firefighting robot optimized for a high-temperature environment and a public service, moving-kiosk robot.
In the Technology Intelligence Report on Commercial Manned Spaceflight, research findings detail the fundamental shift in the U.S. space industry - from corporate entities such as the Boeing Company supplying components and building spacecraft, to NASA or DOD specifications, to corporations developing and specifying the mission, vehicles and underlying technologies. Other insights include:
- Manned spaceflight patent activity is much larger and more diverse than one might image, with an estimated 17,000-plus manned spaceflight inventions that have been patented since the early 1960s.
- Patent filings are trending sharply upwards, due to increasing patent activity by China and by private launch providers in the United States - where a clear transition from public to private sector is underway.
- Emerging private entities include Microsoft, French engine manufacturer Safran, U.S. defense contractor Harris Corporation, and Blue Origin - a private spaceflight company founded by Amazon founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos.
- Interest in human-enablement in space is also growing, including: astronaut tools and on-orbit manipulators, astronaut training and simulation aids, and spacecraft tracking and observation technologies. In aggregate, these topics suggest increasingly complex tasks that astronauts are performing once they are in space.
Autonomous robots are disrupting multiple industries and creating wholly new product categories and markets. At the same time, we seem to be on the verge of a new era of manned spaceflight as a consumer service. Patent applications provide a unique source of insights about companies' R&D strategies and future product plans. Companies in these and other sectors should proactively monitor patent filings to track product innovations, watch for emerging competitors and understand the technology state-of-the art across various geographies.
Do you need tips for conducting your own patent analysis? Here are some best practices to get you started.