Retail Robotics: Automated Shelf Auditing and Analytics

Create: 05/02/2017 - 09:03
IoT retail Simbe Robotics

Photo: Simbe Robotics

 

Like almost every industry, retail is being shaped by the IoT—or more specifically, autonomous robots and algorithms. If advancements in robotic technology and artificial intelligence continue on the current trajectory, robotics could go beyond providing just a “wow factor” and be the key to bringing customers back into physical stores, according to a recent article in Intel iQ.

All retailers, whether online or brick-and-mortar, understand the importance of providing a positive shopping experience, knowing that doing so increases the likelihood of having return customers.

While store staff can have the most impact on the shopping experience, robotics have the potential for delivering positive improvements to the retail ecosystem, including:

  • Free up retail staff
  • Provide automated inventory monitoring and restocking
  • Increase business efficiency
  • Enlarge and expand customer base and customer satisfaction
  • Reduce operating costs
  • Reduce losses from theft
  • Provide real-time data and analytics
  • Perform janitorial and cleaning services after hours.

Stocking Up

While each of these is important for store owners, one of the key uses of robotics in retail is ridding stores of the mundane and repetitive tasks, including auditing shelves. According to research from the IHL Group, global retailers lose nearly $450 billion annually as a result of out-of-stock items, empty shelves and other in-store inconsistencies.

Through robotic automation, retailers of any size can keep shelves stocked and tidy. At the National Retail Federation show earlier this year, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich demonstrated Tally, the world’s first robotic, autonomous, shelf-auditing and analytics solution for retail from San Francisco-based Simbe Robotics. Tally performs the laborious task of auditing shelves for out-of-stock items, low stock items, misplaced items and pricing errors.

Powered by an Intel® NUC with a Core i7 inside and equipped with RealSense cameras, Tally can autonomously navigate a store. Tally can monitor stock levels, ensuring that products are always available, correctly displayed and accurately priced.

How It Rolls

According to Simbe Robotics, Tally is equipped with a charging dock that it can autonomously navigate back to between scans, allowing for continuous operation. The robot includes a suite of sensors enabling it to operate reliably and safely in retail environments while capturing information on the state of merchandise in the store.

The robot captures data and sends it securely to the cloud for processing and analysis. The data is processed through both an API and front-end application, along with specific recommendations to improve store performance to stakeholders. In addition, Tally can be integrated into a retailers’ existing IT systems. Tally is built upon the open source Robot Operating System (ROS).

IoT retail Simbe retail

Photo: Simbe Robotics

Tally stands 38 inches tall and has an adjustable and modular mast of sensors for capturing shelf data. The overall height is variable, depending on the retailer's shelf height requirements. Tally weighs approximately 30 lbs., and it can be easily moved to an optimal docking location within a retail store's floor plan.

Tally is not the only game in town in retail robotics. According to Intel iQ, shoppers who visit a Lowe’s Home Improvement store might be greeted by NAVii robotic staff, aka LoweBots, made by Fellow Robots. The bots can help customers with simple questions as well as scan inventory and capture real-time data.

“We designed the NAVii robot to make the shopping experience easier for consumers—simplifying the process of finding the product they’re looking for—while also managing the back-end and keeping shelf inventory up-to-date for the retailer,” said Marco Mascorro, CEO of Fellow Robots.

Keeping Tally

Watch a video of Tally in action in a store. Tally is currently in trial with several North American retailers. For information regarding pricing and pilot deployment programs, contact sales@simberobotics.com or visit www.simberobotics.com/.

About Author

Patricia Schnaidt's picture
Patricia Schnaidt
Patricia Schnaidt is an expert business technology writer. She has held top publishing and editorial positions at InternetWeek, Network Computing, Windows Magazine and LAN Magazine. Schnaidt has written countless articles, lectured extensively, and authored "Enterprise-wide Networking" (Prentice-Hall). She holds a B.A. in Computer Science from Columbia College, Columbia University.

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