Tally robot autonomously takes stock of store shelves
If you turn up to your local supermarket one day to find all of your favourite items fully stocked, you may have the slender robot sauntering up and down the aisles to thank. Announced today, Tally is an autonomous retail robot that rolls around stores making sure shelves are correctly stocked, promising to cut labor costs and lost revenue in the process.
Tally features a sensor array that scans and captures shelf data as it moves through the store on the lookout for out-of-stock, low-stock, misplaced items, incorrectly oriented items and pricing errors. It can't rectify any problems on its own, but sends data to the cloud for processing and then presents recommendations to retailers through an app on how to better meet customer demands.
Makers of Tally, Simbe Robotics, which came out of stealth today, says that the robot doesn't need special store infrastructure to do its job, and can function safely amongst customers and staff during business hours. It weighs around 30 lb (13.6 kg) and stands around 38 inches (96 cm) tall, though this can be adjusted to suit a retailer's specific needs. It will also autonomously return to its charging dock when running low on power.
For employees to work their way around a store checking merchandise is a labor-intensive task, and it isn't always done with 100 percent accuracy. As is the case in general with robotic solutions, the company hopes that by automating the process it can offer retailers a cheaper, more reliable approach. A pilot program is currently underway in several stores in North America.
You can see Tally in action in the video below.
Source: Simbe Robotics
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30 years ago I had a concept that worked as an enormous automated vending machine that people walked around in and loaded up the carts with items, or ordered online from. Yes there were computers & internet 30 years ago.
As the vertical columns of packaged goods dropped the items to a centralized conveyor system, all items could be packaged at once, either by the user, or an automated packer. The columns still need the human intervention to load the goods, ordering could be automated based on sales, vesus stock. Fresh produce was still a pick and cart affair as consumers prefer to hand pick fresh produce such as fruits, vegetables, and meats, dairy etc.
So the first step would have smart shelves to manage inventory, then order, stock themselves...
However "CLEAN-UP ON ISLE 5" will probably still be needed as long as humans are involved.
Even if the stuff is reasonably accessible, very often we are running very short on available staff due to sickness, staff holidays, and the occasional skiving staff member. Not to mention occasionally lazy staff members who will tell customers that we don't have the stock when it is in the warehouse and readily accessible!
No, this device will only disappoint customers who think that they will always be able to get what they want when they come into the store as there are too many inbuilt (and occasionally willfully perverse) inefficiencies in the system to ever get it right.