Home robot-maker still scans market

Updated: 2016-01-08 00:13

By Hezi Jiang in Las Vegas(China Daily USA)

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Home robot-maker still scans market

Suzhou-based Ecovacs Robotics shows its new window robot, WINBOT, at CES, Hezi Jiang / China Daily

China’s in-home robot maker, Ecovacs Robotics, brought new floor and window robots, and prototypes of its air purifier, home entertainment and security robots to this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Their new floor robot can be maneuvered via phones and tablets.

“After it cleans the living room, you can draw on your phone and order it to go to the kitchen or bedroom,” said Michael Hecht, executive director of Ecovacs.

Marketed as an affordable robotics brand, Ecovacs hopes to take personal robot ownership from a novelty to a necessity, said chairman Qian Dongqi.

His company started as an original equipment manufacturer of vacuum cleaners in 1998, but Qian said he wanted to do something more challenging. For seven years, they researched and experimented with home robotics, and its first floor robot, launched in 2007, proved to be a success in China.

“Unlike a traditional manufacturer, a technology company can never stop making progress,” said Qian.

Ecovacs now says it is now in the top five brands of in-home robotics worldwide, with a 65 percent market share in China. Its products are sold globally through Best Buy, Bed Bath & Beyond, Brookstone, Walmart, Wayfair and more.

Ecovacs’s goal is to become a leader in the global market.

“It’s not easy to nurture a brand, especially a global brand, it’s very challenging,” said Qian. “A lot of it is not about the products or technologies. You have to communicate, localize and serve your customers.”

“Every market is different. People have different needs and expectations,” he added.

“Every time I come to CES, I learn more about the global market, and American families,” he said. “It’s a long-term process.”

As an example, Qian said it is more common for the average American family to have carpets in their home, whereas most Chinese households have bare floors.

Asked about the trends in home electronics, Qian said he was somewhat skeptical about the currently hot concept of the connected home — smart devices connected to phones.

“A lot of companies are making this kind of product, but I’m questioning ‘Do consumers really have the need?’” he said.

With home robotics, Qian said he is still figuring out what can become necessities.

“It’s clear that people like the cleaning robots,” he said. “We want to make floor and window robots must-haves like washing machines, but what about other service robots? We just don’t know yet.”