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Israeli Roboteam 'Soldiers of Iron' Startup Raises $50M Series B for its UGV

Israeli Roboteam 'Soldiers of Iron' Startup Raises $50M Series B for its UGV

Calcalist. The startup was founded in Israel in 2009 by co-CEOs Yossi Wolf and Elad Levy. Wolf has more than 15 years’ experience in the fields of robotics and unmanned vehicles. Prior to founding Roboteam, he was head of the robotics division at ODF Optronics. He has an extensive background in physics and philosophy and is the holder of several patents. He previously served as a Captain and Company Commander in the Israeli Air Force Special Forces. Levy, who is responsible for global operations, previously served as an Officer and Company Commander in the Israeli Air Force Special Forces and holds a B.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, where he specialized in Robotic Control. Roboteam initially received funding from the Israeli Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has officially included Roboteam’s tactical robotic system, dubbed Soldier of Iron, as the newest members of its elite infantry units. The new addition is equipped with day/night vision, can climb stairs, and is capable of completing high-risk surveillance and reconnaissance missions. [caption id="attachment_433863" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]roboteam_soldier_of_iron Soldier of Iron: Roboteam. (Courtesy: YNet)[/caption] Roboteam designs, develops and manufactures remote control unmanned UGV for defense, law enforcement, and public safety missions. The company is able to provide expert technical engineering units offering complete operational and tactical control, overall mission management and enhanced force coordination. It now counts as its customers various U.S. military and homeland defense branches, as well as defense and counter-terrorism forces in Canada, the UK, Switzerland, Italy, Poland, Singapore, Thailand, and others, with 32 site deployments worldwide and 54 government contracts delivered. Roboteam is making inroads into the U.S. market by producing less costly, multiple-mission robots. “We need to make systems differently for the new battlefield,” says Roboteam’s North America CEO Shahar Abuhazira, a veteran of Israel’s summer 2014 Gaza war where he served as an infantry company commander in support of the urban, anti-tunnel campaign. Of Roboteam’s 120 direct employees, about half are based in Israel and the rest are at its U.S. headquarters in Gaithersburg, Maryland and elsewhere. Lowering the cost of producing and maintaining robots is imperative for manufacturers that want to compete in this market. The small unmanned ground vehicles that the Army bought by the thousands over the past decade cost up to $200,000 each, depending on the configuration and quantities. “I think we need to cut the price in half,” Abuhazira recently told the National Defense Industrial Association’s National Defense magazine. “It’s not just the cost of buying, but also maintenance and service.” The Army estimates that since 2004, it has built up an inventory of about 7,000 robots, most assigned to explosive ordnance disposal teams. Officials are now eyeing broader applications for robots that could be equipped with a diversity of weapons and cameras. “We need to make sure systems are simpler to operate,” Abuhazira says. Whereas explosive ordnance squads are dedicated experts, infantry troops need more user-friendly machines. To do multiple jobs, robots have to be “plug and play” systems so users can pick and choose sensors and payloads to fit the mission, Abuhazira says. “Today it’s expensive to do changes.” Roboteam created a line of lightweight, fast deployable unmanned ground systems that deliver technological and functional breakthroughs for tactical purposes with unmatched reliability. Its customers include the US Military, Special Forces, EOD units and SWAT teams as well as other elite units around the globe. Roboteam’s success can be attributed to the company’s intimate knowledge of customers’ operational needs. “All around the world, terrorism looks the same, whether it’s ISIS, or in Israel, France or Chechnya,” Roboteam’s co-founder and co-CEO Yosi Wolf told Bloomberg last year. “Fighting terrorism is urban warfare where carrier ships and war planes are a lot less relevant. This is where special forces make the difference and these robots can be game-changers.” Roboteam features a family of robotic solutions and operator control units designed for numerous operational missions such as gathering tactical intelligence and reconnaissance (ISR), explosive ordinance disposal (EOD), subterranean/tunnel investigations, search & rescue, and chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and hazardous materials (CBRN & HAZMAT) handling. Roboteam is one of several bidders for the Army’s CRSI, or common robotic system individual. The service plans to acquire up to 4,100 25-pound or lighter robots for use at the squad level, according to NDIA. The company won a U.S. government contract from the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office in 2013 to produce a micro-tactical ground robot that was later acquired by U.S. special operations forces, homeland security and border security agencies. Key to winning that contract, was offering a backpack-size robot that could be operated more easily by dismounted troops and law enforcement agents, Abuhazira said. According to Roboteam executives, the MTGR weighs less than 20 pounds, carries its weight in payload and is built to clear obstacles, climb stairs and conduct complex maneuvers in extreme terrain. Billed by the company as the world’s lightest EOD platform, the single-soldier-carried MTCG travels at 2 mph, climbs 8-inch stairs and has a line of sight operating range of more than 1,600 feet. Established initially as a boutique provider of optronics, robotics and intuitive imaging, Roboteam beat out much larger and more established US firms Foster Miller, a subsidiary of British QinetiQ; and Bedford, Massachusetts-based iRobot, said Defense News. In July, Roboteam hired former Army Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology Heidi Shyu to serve on its advisory board. Shyu is a known personality in the Pentagon and the industry who has championed the use of unmanned systems, NDIA says. During her time as the Army’s top procurement executive, Shyu was emphatic about the need for a common architecture, open-source software and open standards in robotics programs. Roboteam executives met Shyu in 2014 following a visit by Pentagon procurement chief Frank Kendall to the company’s research center in Tel Aviv. Kendall was especially impressed by the technology for unmanned subterranean vehicles and asked Shyu to go see it for herself. Abuhazira says Shyu will help direct strategic planning, “so we better understand the market, and better plan our resources to meet the Army requirements.” The top targets are the CRSI program and the next generation of the Army’s “man-transportable robotics system.” According to NDIA, the MTRS will replace the Talon family of robots over the next decade. “Soon after we opened, within months, we started to get contacted by the U.S. government,” he says. “We are growing fast.” One of the largest wins was a $25 million Air Force contract in 2015 to supply up to 250 small bomb-disposal robots.]]>

China Vanke, Siasun, Guangzhou Funds, to Create SIRI Robotics R&D Center in Israel

China Vanke, Siasun, Guangzhou Funds, to Create SIRI Robotics R&D Center in Israel

  • Establishment of an Israeli branch of the Guangzhou Sino-Israeli Robotics Institute (SIRI);
  • Establishment of a $20 million investment fund for joint projects that meet the requirements of the Chinese market;
  • Identifying suitable robotics investment projects for the Chinese market, and
  • Development of educational and training programs, including the organization of joint conferences.
  • The deal is the second major development in the Sino-Israeli robotics sector. In September, the two countries signed a deal to establish the Sino-Israeli Robotics Institute (SIRI), the centerpiece of a new $2 billion industrial park in Guangzhou that will be dedicated to bringing to life the robotics research done by Israeli and Chinese researchers, according to Times of Israel. Under the new deal signed last week, the technology and the robots will be developed and perfected by Israeli and Chinese researchers in Israel, and will be mass-produced in China. National Economic Council and Israel-China Task Force Chairman Prof. Eugene Kandel, commented at a China-Israel Cooperation Conference held in Tel Aviv earlier this year: “The development of trade relations, research and development, and joint bilateral investments will contribute to economic growth in both countries. Ties between Israeli and Chinese companies, encouraged and supported by both governments, is of decisive importance for Israel at a time when the global economy as a whole is moving eastward.” The Chinese delegation was led by Dr. Peng Jian, Manager of the China-Israel Joint Task Force at the China National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), according to the Israel Export & International Cooperation Institute. The SIRI event attracted senior executives from Siasun, a leading robotics company in China; Vanke, China’s largest real estate company with needs in the field of robotics for its industrial parks; Guangdong Akode Smart Logistics; Foshan Yitai Medical Supplies; and Shenzhen ASTR Industrial Co., Ltd. Administration officials of the Guangzhou industrial zone also participated at the ceremony. Leading Guangzhou investment funds present at the SIRI Tel Aviv event included Guangzhou Sino-Israeli Smart Technologies Investment Ltd.; Guangzhou Finance Holdings Group Co., Ltd.; Guangzhou Hongtao Venture Capital Ltd.; and Guangzhou Infinity Equity Management Ltd. Representing Israel were: Yariv Becher – Director of the China-India Department of Foreign Trade at the Ministry of Economy; Uri Pachter – Director of International Projects at the Institute of Export; Dan Catarivas – Director of the Division of Foreign Trade and International Relations at the Israel Manufacturers Association; and Peggy Mizrahi – Manager of the China Unit of the Israel Export Institute. Senior members of Israel’s robotics industry included Prof. Moshe Shoham – Co-Founder and CTO of Mazor Robotics and head of the Robotics Laboratory at the Technion, Dr. Arie Perry – President of AUVSI Israel and former IAI consultant, Rafi Aravot – founder of RoboGroup, and Warren (Barry) Brayer – a civil aviation industry robotics expert. SIASUN Robot & Automation Co., Ltd. (300024:Shenzhen) is the largest robotics company in China, and its four major leading industries are: advanced manufacturing equipment, rail transit automation industry, energy equipment industry, and advanced robot industry. Its application fields cover various areas, such as: vehicles, motorcycles, electronics, electrical appliances, tobacco, chemicals, food, finance, medicine, railway, printing and publishing fields. Siasun is located in the Shanghai Jinqiao Export Processing Zone. China Vanke Co. Ltd. (2202.HK) develops and sells small and medium-sized general commodity housing projects in China. The company also provides property management and related services to purchasers and tenants of its own developed residential properties and shopping arcades, as well as to the external property developers. In addition, it offers construction contract services. The company was founded in 1984 and is headquartered in Shenzhen. China Vanke has a market capitalization of 252.75 billion. Guangdong Akode Smart Logistics Technologies, Ltd is engaged in the production and sale of electric/manual forklifts, automobile tail boards, intelligent welding robot cleaners and other logistics equipment. The company is at the forefront of innovation, and has been awarded the title of “Guangdong Private Science and Technology Enterprise”. Its mission is to research and develop intelligent logistics projects. Foshan Yitai Medical Supplies Co., Ltd. is a manufacturer specialized in proprietary medical technology, medical equipment development and production of high-tech medical equipment. At present the company has mastered the non-independent Ethernet operation decompression technology and developed a number of patented products such as the portable intelligent treatment instrument for cervical pull decompression.]]>

    High-Tech Japanese hotel to be run by multilingual robots

    High-Tech Japanese hotel to be run by multilingual robots

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    The technology for the hotel’s cyborg staff isn’t far from science fiction. The Telegraph reported the robots will come from robotics company Kokoro, which has been developing “actroid,” or human-seeming, robots since 2003.
    Henn-na Hotel Actroid-staff
    Kokoro’s actroids are generally modeled on the appearance and mannerisms of a young Japanese woman. They can mimic human behaviors such as breathing and blinking, speak fluent Japanese, Chinese, Korean and English, and know how to make eye contact and respond to body language and tone. They will check-in guests, carry bags, make coffee, clean rooms, and deliver laundry.
    For now, the robot staff will be supplemented with a human staff.   “In the future, we’d like to have more than 90 percent of hotel services operated by robots,” said Huis Ten Bosch president Hideo Sawada. “We will make the most efficient hotel in the world,” Sawada told the Japan Times.
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