Avi is a robotics domain expert, specializing in systems control, robotics, microrobotics, microfluidics, 3D printing and data science. After graduating magna cum laude MSc in Mechanical Engineering from Tel Aviv University (TAU), he went on to head TAU’s robotics lab as a technical expert and researcher. During this time Avi led research in various innovative fields such as medical micro-devices for IVF automation and a 3D printing system of living human cells. Subsequently, he managed the robotics lab at the Center for Agricultural Technologies of the Israeli Government, developing key agriculture robotics solutions rooted in statistical analysis and machine learning. Avi has pending patents and published papers in the fields of microfluidics and surgical microrobotics. Find out more in this interview with TechBullion.
Please tell us more about yourself and your professional journey so far before Skyline?
My name is Avi Abadi and I am the founder and CTO of Skyline Robotics. I’m an engineer and entrepreneur in the robotics domain with more than a decade of experience; and believe in engineering for a better world. In my career, I’ve specialized in finding innovative solutions to various engineering challenges. Prior to Skyline, I initiated various ventures, from a social-based video service for the visually impaired, 3D manipulation system of microparticles for DNA manipulation and in vitro fertilization (IVF) automation to concrete 3D printing and robots for construction work at heights. I also previously managed the robotics lab at the Center for Agricultural Technologies (Volcani institute) of the Israeli Government, developing key agriculture robotics solutions rooted in statistical analysis and machine learning. My main areas of expertise are programming, systems control, robotics, microrobotics, microfluidics, 3D printing, and data science.
Why did you start Skyline Robotics? Tell us more about the problem you are solving.
Window cleaning has not changed since the industry launched. In the last 100 years, buildings have scaled dramatically in height and window surface area. Cleaning these windows while suspended hundreds of feet in the air poses a great risk for the workers and the public. We know that there are significant amounts of injuries and even severe injuries that occur at heights on a facade each year. We started the company in an effort to use robots to take humans out of high-risk situations, but didn’t stop there. We aim to automate all tasks done by humans today on the facade. Today we target the most dull, dirty and dangerous of these tasks: window cleaning.
Our Ozmo robots will offer several advantages over human window washers including:
- Faster: 3-6 times faster than traditional window cleaning.
- Safer: Humans will supervise from above and are kept out of harm’s way as robots do the cleaning.
- Cleaner: Skyline’s technology ensures Ozmo provides consistent, high-quality cleaning – never missing a spot.
- Economical: Ozmo will reduce onsite labor costs by 75 percent, cutting significantly the largest operational cost.
Could you give us a highlight of your current role at Skyline and what makes your role unique?
As CTO, I am hands-on in the development of Ozmo’s current and future functionality & features with the R&D team. What makes the role unique is that we are working on a solution that did not previously exist and continue to innovate daily to bring new technologies to the industry. Skyline is one of the first companies in the world to commercialize a robotic solution for outdoors, breaking the glass sill of robots in factories. We show the world that humans should do human tasks, while robots act as their extension, also outside of the factory. Robots belong in every industry, especially those that have dull, dirty and dangerous tasks.
What is your robotics expertise and how was it key to bringing your first robot, Ozmo, an autonomous window washing robot to market? Do you hold patents?
I earned my MSc in Mechanical Engineering from Tel Aviv University (TAU) graduating magna cum laude with three published papers in peer-reviewed journals and a patent.
I went on to head TAU’s robotics lab as a technical expert and researcher where I led research in innovative fields such as medical micro-devices for IVF automation and a 3D printing system with living human cells. From there I started my first robotics company, NESTO ABC, for concrete 3D printing, served as head of the robotics lab at The Agricultural Research Organization, Volcani Center, and ultimately founded Skyline Robotics in 2017.
Since the beginning of my professional career I have been working with robots, micro to large scale. However, while working in Volcani Center I realized the commercialization of robotics, the challenges of bringing such to the market, and the fine balance between human and robot collaboration. The last is the most important for establishing a robot solution, as it can be very costly to build a fully automated system from day one.
Skyline has filed a patent for window cleaning with a robotic arm in multiple strategic locations.
What is the technology behind your best products, what informs your decisions when making them and what strategies do you have in place to ensure durable and efficient products?
By combining the expertise of our engineers with inventive AI technology, we were able to design a robot that serves as an essential tool for building facade maintenance, ensuring that the whole process is more practical than traditional methods – and about three times faster. Ozmo’s brain combines the capacities of custom-built AI systems and machine learning solutions, enabling it to work precisely, continuously adapt and command peak efficiency. With the aid of Lidar, Ozmo intricately scans building surfaces, detecting every curve and edge of the area, while force-torque sensors provide it with a sense of touch and sight. The data is analyzed by Ozmo’s brain, providing it with a thorough sense of its surroundings. This is what makes Ozmo a game-changer of window cleaning technology, as its flexibility and competency are unmatched.
Tell us more about why you wanted to tackle the window washing market and why this is significant for the industry?
In addition to the safety factor addressed above, the $40B window-cleaning industry is also dealing with significant labor shortages. 74 percent of window cleaners in the USA are over the age of 40, but only 10 percent are between the ages of 20 and 30. This is leaving a void that Skyline Robotics can address with our Ozmo window-cleaning robots.
Additionally, there are concerns that robots will take jobs away from humans. Skyline Robotics wants to help lead the charge of creating a collaborative working relationship between humans and robots. Ozmo, while autonomous, is still operated by humans. However, they use a computer on the rooftop, rather than hanging high above the ground.
What has the response to Ozmo so far and will we see the robot deployed globally?
The response to Ozmo has been overwhelmingly positive. Frankly, it is a solution that is long overdue. The first Ozmo robots are being deployed in New York City, the mecca of skyscrapers. We recently announced a key investment from commercial and residential real estate giant, Durst Ventures, an affiliate of The Durst Organization, that owns some of New York’s most notable skyscrapers including One Bryant Park, One World Trade Center and 151 West 42nd Street. In addition to NYC, we aim to bring Ozmo to buildings across the world.
As the CTO, could you tell us more about your team of technical experts at Skyline, the challenges you face everyday and what makes you an excellent team?
Ozmo is built thanks to the vast experience of the combined multidisciplinary team, all sharing the same goal and enthusiasm. Our team is separated into five different collaborative teams. The algorithm development, software engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, validation and operation teams are structured from the best talents in Israeli high-tech. This team structure is essential for developing a stable and reliable product.
Growth is always a challenge, but we have been able to almost double the team within a year, while still keeping close our first recruitments such as Ohad Simon, a software engineer who has been in the company for five years.
Moreover, moving to new facilities also allowed us to set up a production line and improve our validation abilities with a more capable experimental setup.
What is next on your product roadmap, what other automated tasks do you envision Skyline will address in the future? Other market opportunities?
While our initial focus is on windows, Ozmo is just the beginning. We’re looking at potential product extensions related to inspections, masonry, painting, and more. We ultimately aim to leverage our technology to create a “façade health” profile.
Any available career opportunities for tech and IT experts at Skyline, do you have more information for us today? Are you hiring?
Skyline Robotics continues to grow and we currently have engineering openings. Visit our website at www.skylinerobotics.com/careers to apply.