Smartphones are becoming more powerful with each new upgrade and are equipped with several accessories that are useful for robots. Due to their large production, they have a high cost/benefit ratio. Mobile phones are one of the top selling mobile devices in the world. Current smartphones have a variety of built-in sensors that can be explored to build robots .For example, many of them have an accelerometer, camera, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, battery, speakers, microphone, Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver and a compass. Some have an even stereo camera for 3D imaging and gyroscopes.
A huge company, based in China’s Taiwan, is well-known as the manufacturer of the world’s bestselling smartphones. It has illustrated a three-step process to replace almost its entire workforce with robots. The way these robots are used can be found at universal-robots.com. The process has been specifically designed for the company’s factories in China. But whether it will expand this massive elimination of manual labor to other factories remains unknown. According to a report by South China Morning Post, this company is looking to use its manufacturing robot technology to automate 30 percent of all factory labor by the year 2020.
So where will the workers go? Are they being laid off? The company didn’t mention that to the media. Even if the company managed to smoothly replace the workers without creating any problems, it may still be accused of not providing enough job opportunities for society.
The company has gained a controversial reputation in recent years for a history of worker suicides, amid accusations of exploitation. This may be one of the reasons for the company’s ambitions concerning automation, but it also raises the question of how the workers will react when their jobs are taken by the robots.
Now we can see the boldness of the robot revolution. It is not only about technical innovation, but also an ethical decision bound to have repercussions.
A Journey to the West
Let’s talk about the second trend in smartphone production: relocation. Gone are the days when smartphone manufacturers could look to utilize the cheap Chinese workforce to reduce costs. So factories are now looking to relocate to countries like India. Take Apple as an example. Wide-spread rumors indicate that some iPhone manufacturers are looking ahead to a future factory in Bangalore. If true, such relocation would be a direct challenge to the policies and principles of the new US president, who promised during his campaign to restore manufacturing jobs in his country.
It will be a real achievement for the USA when they finally get Apple to be finally based in the United States, or many big companies in the United States, where instead of going to China, and going to Vietnam, and going to the places that the total cost of this business is way smaller than in the USA.
But according to the growing speculation surrounding factory relocations to India and elsewhere, Apple’s manufacturers do not seem to understand that. Combining these two trends, in the future, we can expect to see our iPhones made by robots based in India. Such a change would represent some of the most profound changes to the industry in recent decades – the concept of automation, and the emergence of new low-wage global powerhouses of production. But is the world ready? Are we ready to admit that some of the most selling products in the world are made in Asian countries and not by humans but by machines instead? After all, it is part of the evolution and one way or another we know this is how change happens.