ABB acquires Sevensense

Jan. 16, 2024
Swiss startup in AI-based navigation could enable autonomy of mobile robots

Swiss startup, Sevensense, has been acquired by ABB. Its expertise in artificial-intelligence-based navigation could enable autonomy of mobile robots. The acquisition underlines ABB’s strategic investment focus on artificial intelligence (AI) for logistics and manufacturing.

Sevensense provides AI-enabled 3D vision navigation technology for autonomous mobile robots (AMRs). Sevensense was founded in 2018 as a spin-off from ETH Zurich, a Swiss technical university.

“This marks a significant step toward our vision of a workplace where AI-enabled robots assist people, addressing our customers' needs for greater flexibility and intelligence amidst critical skilled labor shortages,” said Sami Atiya, president of ABB Robotics and Discrete Automation. “Each mobile robot, equipped with vision and AI, scans a unique part of the building; collectively these robots complement each other’s view to form a complete map, enabling them to work autonomously in a rapidly changing environment (Figure 1).”

The acquisition follows ABB’s minority investment in Sevensense after it joined the company’s innovation ecosystem in 2021, the same year ABB acquired ASTI Mobile Robotics. Following pilot customer projects in the automotive and logistics industries, ABB plans to integrate Sevensense’s technology into the company’s AMR portfolio.

Sevensense’s navigation technology combines AI and 3D vision, enabling AMRs to make intelligent decisions, differentiating between fixed and mobile objects in dynamic environments. Mobile robots with visual simultaneous localization and mapping (VSLAM) technology create a map that is used to operate independently, enabling the AMRs to navigate in highly complex, dynamic environments alongside people. Maps are constantly updated and shared across the fleet, offering instant scalability without interrupting operations.

For automotive manufacturer Ford, VSLAM-enabled ABB AMRs will be deployed in U.S. production sites. Michelin will use the technology in intralogistics at its factory in Spain.

“Offering more autonomy and cognitive intelligence, ABB’s unique market-proven technology paves the way for a shift from linear production lines to dynamic networks,” said Marc Segura, president of ABB’s robotics division. “Intelligent AMRs autonomously navigate to production cells, tracking stock inventory as they go and sharing this information with other robots, while collaborating safely side-by-side with humans.”

Gregory Hitz, CEO of Sevensense, said: “This is a significant moment in our shared journey, as we introduce our homegrown technology to a wider range of markets and sectors. ABB is the ideal home for us to continue scaling our versatile platform for 3D visual autonomy, serving original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) across the automated material-handling and service robotics industries. Together, we will redefine the limits of AI-enabled robotics.”

This technology will continue to be sold across segments including material handling, cleaning and other service robotics fields under the product name Sevensense. Sevensense’s approximately 35 employees will continue to be based at its Swiss office in Zurich.