In this blog post, we dig into a topic that is near and dear to our heart: the decision of whether to buy or build a cloud platform for your robotics business.
Why do you need a cloud data platform?
In order to deploy and manage a fleet of robots successfully, companies need to adopt a cloud platform that enables end users to manage deployed devices. This platform acts as a data layer, providing team members with crucial data for debugging and optimizing devices. It also serves as the backbone for the everyday aspects of managing a robotic fleet, providing observability, notifications, and the ability to command and control robots remotely as necessary.
What should a cloud-based platform include?
When thinking about a cloud platform for your robotics company, it’s important to consider all of the functionality you’ll need instead of just thinking about the immediate need. We’ve seen a number of companies who have built disparate solutions to challenges like monitoring or teleoperation, only to end up with a jumbled mess of in-house apps that don’t work well together.
Instead, think of the functionality you will likely need in the next few years, and prioritize that list to come up with your must-haves.
Some of the most common features of a robotics platform include:
- Data observability & analytics
- Command & control in real-time
- Notifications & interventions
- Data lifecycle management
- Customizable & extensible web interface
The big question: should you build or buy?
Every scaling robotics company faces a choice: build this platform in-house or buy something off the shelf. The question comes down to three main drivers: speed, cost, and customization.
Speed is easy to calculate. Just take the estimate of how long your internal team thinks it will take to build what you need and multiply it by two. Then compare that to the few days that it takes to get started with a platform like Formant.
Cost is fairly simple as well. Take the timeline you got above, multiply it by the monthly cost of those engineers, then include 1-2 developers to update and maintain the internal platform in perpetuity.
Customization takes more consideration; when looking for a cloud platform to build your robotics business on, you’ll want a platform that doesn’t lock in your data and that is easily extensible. In addition, a platform that makes it easy to customize the front end (with custom apps, data visualizations, etc.) will go a long way to meeting your customization needs. But if your need for customization and control outweighs all the other needs, then you might be a candidate to build a solution yourself.
Here’s a quick comparison between building your own platform and buying a platform like Formant:
At Formant, we’re passionate about seeing robotics startups succeed and scale. We spend all day every day talking to founders and engineers about their challenges, whether it’s running their first pilot or scaling to thousands of devices. And a lot of those challenges could be better addressed if early-stage teams were focused on their own tech instead of building cloud tooling for managing devices.
We get it, we’re biased. But we’ve seen too many companies struggle because they weren’t hyperfocused. If that sounds like you, maybe this is a sign. When it comes to rolling out a cloud platform, it makes more sense to buy than to build it yourself.
If you're interested in learning more about Formant, we encourage you to request a demo with our team.