Service robots are particularly suited to combating the spread of the Coronavirus, especially in hospitals. They can assist healthcare workers and support patients. Anis Sahbani, CEO and founder of the Tunisian start-up Enova Robotics, explains more.
Since it launched in 2014, Enova Robotics has become a key player in service robots. Who can benefit from these technologies?
Anis Sahbani : Enova Robotics (opens in a new window) designs, manufactures and sells mobile robots for the industrial security and health sectors. For example, we’re deploying a robot that facilitates remote discussions between elderly residents of nursing homes and their families.
How has the Coronavirus crisis affected your business operations: What have you put in place to adapt your services to this context?
Anis Sahbani : The pandemic has completely halted our operations, which are 100% based on hardware. At the same time, our services are particularly suited to dealing with the crisis and can relieve healthcare workers and support patients.
One of our customers chose to use our telepresence robot in a hospital in Tunis, which has been assigned to Covid-19 patients. The aim is to allow patients to maintain vital bonds with loved ones and interact with doctors while minimising physical contact. Three of our employees returned on site to manufacture and program the tool. Before they did so, of course we put in place all the necessary protection measures including flexible schedules, physical distancing and provision of masks etc. Other establishments such as the Pitié-Salpêtrière in France are interested in our solution.
At the same time, we’re developing a robot equipped with thermal sensors to take the temperature of patients at the entrance to hospitals. Equipped with a chatbot, the tool assesses their symptoms and directs them towards a suitable healthcare solution.
What will life be like for you after the crisis?
Anis Sahbani : Our priority is to get through this crisis while protecting our workforce until October or even December. Secondly, our most optimistic projections point to a future that very much features robots, particularly in the health sector, which should benefit from massive investments. But let’s be cautious, we are still lacking visibility.
What lessons can you draw from this situation?
Anis Sahbani : We have focused our efforts on developed countries, setting up operations mainly in France and Germany, but also in the USA and Gulf countries. However, other economies, particularly Africa, might be interested in our technologies. We’re not immune to a second wave of the pandemic. In this uncertain context, we must speed up our roadmap and accelerate the manufacturing and diversification of our solutions.
Orange and Enova Robotics: a long-term partnership
“When it began in 2018, our collaboration changed the way our investors and customers saw us. Through Orange, we benefited from a pre-acceleration initiative and were invited to VivaTech 2018 and 2019. This gave us the opportunity to sign agreements with Group entities interested in robotics and also meet new markets! As a business and innovation partner, Orange provides us with some of the chips for our robots as well as video conferencing and scheduling software solutions. We’re currently considering integrating 5G and the opportunities this might open up for us.”