Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The robotics industry is looking to copy the successful software-as-a-service (SaaS) model as use of robots accelerates during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why it matters: A major challenge to the spread of industrial robots has been their high initial cost. A model that charges companies regularly for robots based on use can offer better returns for robotics companies and widen their potential customer base.

What's happening: Due to concerns over vulnerable supply chains and the potential for infection of human workers, the COVID-19 pandemic has spurred growth in the robotics sector.

  • 41% of executives surveyed by Ernst & Young say they expect to accelerate automation because of the pandemic.
  • Since mid-April, the performance of the ROBO index fund, which tracks companies in the automation sector, has outperformed the S&P 500.

Yes, but: There are still plenty of obstacles holding back the automation wave.

  • Traditionally, industrial robots have been sold or leased to companies. That requires a potentially large one-time capital expenditure that could discourage some customers.
  • It also discourages VCs, since hardware companies rarely enjoy the revenue multiples that SaaS startups do.

In response, robotics companies are pursuing a robotics as a service (RaaS) model, where customers essentially subscribe to industrial robots as they might a cloud service like AWS.

  • New customers find it easier to employ an industrial robot if they know they can pay for it over the course of months or longer based on use, says Austin Badger, the director of Silicon Valley Bank's frontier tech program and the author of a new report on robotics.
  • "This leads to smaller and more mobile and specialized robots" that can service a number of industries," he says.

What to watch: Better financing models help, but ultimately we'll only see the robopocalypse if robots really can effectively replace human workers.

  • We're not quite there yet, as an Information story about Apple's struggles to expand the use of manufacturing robots in China demonstrates.

The bottom line: Everyone wants to be in the subscription business — including the bots.

Go deeper

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Kellyanne Conway's parting power pointers

Kellyanne Conway addresses the 2020 Republican National Convention. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

Kellyanne Conway has seen power exercised as a pollster, campaign manager and senior counselor to President Trump. Now that his term in office has concluded, she shared her thoughts with Axios.

Why it matters: If there's a currency in this town, it's power, so we've asked several former Washington power brokers to share their best advice as a new administration and new Congress settle in.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

GOP holdouts press on with plans to crush Cheney

Screenshot of emails to a member of Congress from individuals who signed an Americans for Limited Government petition against Rep. Liz Cheney. Photo obtained by Axios

Pro-Trump holdouts in the House are forging ahead with an uphill campaign to oust Rep. Liz Cheney as head of the chamber's Republican caucus even though Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told them to back down.

Why it matters: What happens next will be a test of McCarthy's party control and the sincerity of his opposition to the movement. Cheney (R-Wyo.) is seen as a potential leadership rival to the California Republican.

Democrats aim to punish House GOP for Capitol riot

Speaker Nancy Pelosi passes through a newly installed metal detector at the House floor entrance Thursday. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

House Democrats plan to take advantage of corporate efforts to cut funding for Republicans who opposed certifying the 2020 election results, with a plan to target vulnerable members in the pivotal 2022 midterms for their role in the Jan. 6 violence.

Why it matters: It's unclear whether the Democrats' strategy will manifest itself in ads or earned media in the targeted races or just be a stunt to raise money for themselves. But the Capitol violence will be central to the party's messaging as it seeks to maintain its narrow majorities in Congress.