Buying and Selling Cobots the WeChat Way

Once commoditized, cobots will be ordered online like laptops are today...together with financing, insurance, maintenance, and engineering expertise...all via WeChat

“I suppose at that level [priced at $10k] it is not anymore about service level support,
you just exchange the whole robot in 30 minutes, and you’re ready to go again.”
—Robert Dekan, Automated Technology Group

When WeChat goes industrial, then what?
Our cobot article series continues to draw lots of interest from many quarters. Latest is a query from a very large investment bank more than passingly curious about this bit from the two-parter on cobots:

“Better yet, the AUBO i5 can be purchased online from Alibaba, which might be the most interesting and fate-filled twist in cobot sales going forward: i.e. the revolution of e-commerce helping to sell the revolution in cobotics.


“The online potential is very intriguing. Maybe the future will see an Alibaba direct purchase “package” with SME-friendly terms and low interest rates through Alibaba’s Ant Financial. Tracy Choi, AUBO’s manager of international sales and marketing, who runs the Alibaba site, says although the Alibaba presence is very recent she’s beginning to get serious inquiries.

“Might e-commerce drive cobot prices down and spur faster, wider adoption?”

from” Is Disruption Ahead for the Cobot Revolution?
Does the cobot revolution need the revolution of e-commerce to drive wide-scale adoption?

The gist of the exchange
With the advent of many new technologies, new business models can also arise, and it appears that’s just what’s happening now that cobots can be purchased online through Alibaba. Financing for said cobots may also be available soon from the likes of Ant Financial or some other online bank, plus an insurance policy for every robot sold.

What would such a business model mean to the million or so small factories in China, or for that matter, to any small factory anywhere in Asia in need of or interested in automating all or a part of their operations?

That it’s already being done by AUBO Robotics, a very good, up-and-coming supplier of quality cobots, was a major revelation and cause for interest with the inquiring investment bankers.

If and when the super-app, WeChat, goes industrial, a potential robot buyer could go online and get a live demo of any and all robots that are available, buy if the product and terms pass muster, and then install with the help of an engineer who pops up at the buyer’s factory just like the guy in the video who pops over to bathe and trim a Corgi (See video: Imagine How). Thereafter, the robot could be hooked into an online monitoring service that would help to keep the machine healthy; or, with a pair of AR goggles, the robot owner could self-maintenance the robot through to the end of its life cycle.

Robert Dekan, a controls manager for the Automated Technology Group (Slovakia), sees cobots one day soon as a reasonably priced commodity item: 

“I suppose at that level [priced at $10k] it is not anymore about service level support, you just exchange the whole robot in 30 minutes, and you’re ready to go again.”

It was interesting to note two things from the bankers’ inquiry:

  • How very little  knowledge the investment bankers had about automation technology in Asia, especially China.
  • How uninformed they were about the power and reach of a super-app like WeChat.

I offered them links to a couple of YouTube videos as enlightenment (see videos below).

Imagine, I suggested, while you watch, think about what will happen when WeChat goes industrial. …I bet it’s going to be big.