E-commerce and food deliveries are two things many Malaysians can no longer go without on the daily. While they’ve so far presented unrivalled convenience, their logistics are still plagued by a fair share of issues.

Kennedy Wai, the founder and CEO of HelloWorld Robotics established in 2018, identified three main issues his company would like to solve when it comes to delivery.

First of all, there is
the high delivery cost, which he said can be categorised into costs for
businesses and end-users.

Secondly, long delivery
times are not uncommon, as it takes time to engage riders/couriers to deliver
food and packages to end-users, which slows down the last-mile delivery process.

Thirdly, there is also
the issue of unreliable riders, which equates to unreliable deliveries. While
it is true that riders’ behaviours are hard to predict, Kennedy acknowledged that
there are a number of contributing factors: inadequate salaries, poaching and
absconding, lack of training absence of employee benefits and career
progression opportunities, and health and life risks.

To solve these issues,
HelloWorld Robotics is developing and manufacturing autonomous robots to perform
last-mile deliveries.

Hassle-Free Deliveries
To Doorsteps

Besides being the main
founder and CEO, Kennedy is also the CTO and Industrial Designer as he’s a
robotics engineer with a background in robotics and automation.

Image Credit: HelloWorld Robotics

He met his co-founder Abe Lim, now the CMO in charge of HelloWorld Robotics’ marketing and business development, on a startup platform.

What HelloWorld
Robotics’ robots essentially do (for now) is deliver groceries and food by
travelling on sidewalks, public roads and pedestrian areas autonomously.

When a robot arrives
at your doorstep, you can unlock the robot to get your packages by entering a
passcode on your phone. If you’re not at home, you can tell the robot to unload
the packages into a pre-installed safe drop in front of your house to avoid
failed deliveries.

These robots are ready to deliver overnight and 24/7, with a fleet of them always on stand-by to receive and execute orders and deliveries. End-users will no longer have to face delayed and unpredictable delivery times.

Image Credit: HelloWorld Robotics

“We design the robots
for last 100m to 4km distance and safe-drop for 10m to 100m distance to make sure
landed houses delivery can be as convenient as condo delivery models with an
affordable cost,” Kennedy said.

Starting Out In
Controlled Environments

The current design of the robots enables them to travel up to 40km on a single charge with a normal payload of 15kg to 20kg, and the target is to have them travel only 1km to 2km for each delivery for better control and delivery time. “We want to limit one order to around 15 minutes and that’s the key criteria when it comes to food delivery,” he explained.

A size comparison. / Image Credit: HelloWorld Robotics

However, he definitely
plans on expanding the robots’ coverage and last-mile distance to 5km in the
future. For deliveries over 5km in distance, he plans to develop and deploy
self-driving car-like autonomous robots in the next 3 years which can move at a
higher speed on public roads to carry out more deliveries.

At the moment, they’ve placed a limit on the robots’ speed to cap it at 1m to 1.5m/s for safety concerns as the robots mostly travel on sidewalks. To avoid obstacles like static objects and walking humans, the robots have a LiDAR sensor for pre-mapping, localisation and obstacle avoidance.

Even with its sensors,
Kennedy said they’ll still have one robot operator to monitor 5 delivery robots
at a time so that they can take control over the robots if things go south.

HelloWorld Robotics has yet to fully launch their robots for use and are still doing pilot tests in Cyberjaya. Once they launch, they will first target locations like Cyberjaya and Putrajaya that have better infrastructure like proper pedestrian walkways.

They want to keep it within controlled environments like gated communities and university campuses as they’ll be able to avoid public regulations for the deployment of their delivery robots.

Bootstrapped Beginnings

Using only his
previous savings which added up to about RM25,000, Kennedy started HelloWorld
Robotics in China. After winning a startup competition there and receiving
nearly RM90,000 in grants from Dongguan City Government, he was able to finish
the first workable MVP for pilot tests.

Image Credit: HelloWorld Robotics

HelloWorld Robotics
will monetise by providing a fleet of delivery robots to clients who subscribe to
their services to get unlimited deliveries at a monthly cost. “We are expecting
to reach 15 collaboration deals and having USD500 as monthly revenue after raising
seed funding to deploy 30 robots,” he added.

He also believes
delivery bots on the sidewalk will beat cars and delivery riders in the long
run. “If you take a purely semi-autonomous (90% autonomous, 10% manual)
approach using the cheapest LiDAR fusing with multiple USB cameras and
ultrasonic sensors, we can significantly improve the unit economics to build a
more sustainable business,” he said.

“In the near future,
we plan to expand the autonomous delivery robot service to Australia and New
Zealand due to their local high cost of on-demand delivery service and labour
cost,” he shared.

Change Is Needed
For Technological Advancement

As an early-stage robotics
startup without huge capital backing and external support, Kennedy found
co-founders and money to be the most challenging issues.

“For long-term challenges, this industry is no doubt hard, combining food and perishables with delivery and logistics, hardware, autonomous robots, highly demanding consumers, government regulation, and vandalism etc.,” he said.

To combat this, they’ll
have to add more safety functions, sensors, cameras and a hidden GPS to track
any robots that are stolen.

Image Credit: HelloWorld Robotics

Kennedy also raised
concerns about potential obstructions to the country’s technological
advancement.

As someone in the
robotics industry, he’s observed that many factories and businesses in Malaysia
are still using technology from Industry 2.0 and relying on lowly-paid foreign
workers to maintain salary levels over the years.

“We have to have our
own design technology to build autonomous robots at least starting with a specific
field,” he said. To do this, he believes Malaysia will need to improve its STEM
education system for students.

He’s also noticed that
Malaysia is always two steps behind when it comes to changing the regulations
for innovation, and he advised:

Regulation directly affects the innovative process, while innovation and technical change have significant impacts on regulation. To be successful, regulatory reform efforts must take into account the linkages between regulation and innovation.

  • You can find out more about HelloWorld Robotics here.

Featured Image Credit: HelloWorld Robotics

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