Formant raises 18M to help companies manage fleets of robots

The robotics industry continues to grow as enterprises look to automate an increasing number of processes across their organizations.

There’s a legitimate fear that robots could replace some of the work done by humans.

On the other hand, robots could work — and are working — together with humans to solve complex problems.

A Loup Ventures report predicts that 34% of the robots sold by 2025 will be collaborative, with the “collaborative robotics” market surging to $1 billion in revenue by 2020.

Whether collaborative or otherwise, orchestrating robots requires tools accessible to engineers as well as the business decision-makers at the companies deploying them.

One supplier is Formant, a startup founded by former Google, Savioke, and Redwood Robotics software engineers, roboticists, and product managers to develop a cloud-based platform for managing large fleets of robots.

Formant founder Jeff Linnell says that early on in his robotics career, it became clear that companies needed a platform where they could manage all their machines and autonomous devices.

“We quickly found that every robotics company is unique.We give operators the ability to jump in and control a robot remotely if there is an issue. Formant also lets teams take control of their robots from anywhere in the world with an internet connection,” said Linnell.

Its intervention builder can integrate with existing help desk tools to assist with identifying problematic edge cases, while Formant’s report creation tool can turn metrics and trends (e.g., technical failures, battery lives, distance traveled, sensor temperature) into exportable one-pagers for stakeholders.

Formant’s platform, which supports over 200 robot types, is handling 50,000 live video streams and 5 billion data points per month, according to Linnell.

Current clients include Fortune 100s and early-stage robotics startups like BP, Canvas, Diligent, Graze, Burro, and John Deere subsidiary Blue River, which is using Formant to capture data generated by robotic farm machinery out in the fields.

The people we sell to want to have 5,000 robots running around their fields — and they want to sit in a room and see them on a screen.

But Linnell says that 20-employee Formant is on track to double in size in 2022.

On the product side we will be making significant investments in our integrations and APIs, ensuring that Formant is extensible and that our customers can easily build their apps and workflows inside our platform,” Linnell said.

Formant’s total capital now stands at $23 million.