Future Stores Seattle 2019

June 05 - 07, 2019

The Sheraton Seattle

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Here's How Fellow Robots is Working with Lowe's to Automate Inventory Management

brought to you by WBR Insights



Inventory management is a common pain point for many retailers. However, in partnering with Lowe's, Fellow Robots has come up with a truly futuristic solution.

Fellow Robots was founded as a spin-off from Silicon Valley's Singularity University in 2011. Singularity has a reputation for exploring solutions for the world's problems through the opportunities presented by the most up to date and innovative technologies, and it is in this spirit that Fellow Robots was formed to address the wants and needs of the retail industry.

The service robotics market is predicted to grow to $23.9 billion by 2022, with applications in healthcare, logistics, education, and retail. Fellow Robots is determined to be a driving force in ensuring these forecasts become a reality with its exciting retail robot designed to revolutionize inventory management - NAVii.

Automated Inventory Management

NAVii is a roughly six-foot-tall android, which lies aesthetically somewhere at the intersection between Dr. Who's famous Dalek foes, the cute turrets from the Portal video game series, and an iPad.



(Image source: roboticsandautomationnews.com)

In its regular function, NAVii uses advanced artificial intelligence and 3D mapping software to roam the aisles of its store, comparing actual shelf images with pre-programed "ideal" ones. Where discrepancies are identified, NAVii sends an alert to store assistants' mobile devices to tell them which products in which locations need restocking. Aside from empty spaces on shelves, NAVii can also identify products which have been mis-priced, and items in incorrect locations.

However, NAVii isn't simply designed to help employees carry out inventory management tasks, it also acts as the ultimate customer assistant. Customers can ask the android where certain products or departments can be found, and NAVii will personally lead them to the correct location.

The robot's built-in touchscreen display can also be used to enter queries (if the customer feels too self-conscious about speaking to a machine directly), and it will provide the required information - and even suggest special offers - accordingly. If an item happens to be out of stock, NAVii will arrange for a text message to be sent to the customer when levels are replenished.

"We scan multiple times a day," said Fellow Robots founder and Chief Executive Officer Marco Mascorro. "The robot takes multiple images, it processes those images using software and AI, and pushes back all the results to the retailers to inform them what's there. We've deployed it in several stores and we're running in those right now. We have two robots per store putting information into apps for the employees. It makes them more efficient, it makes them more productive."

NAVii

NAVii doesn't need to take breaks and it doesn't get ill. However, anyone concerned that the robot is set to replace human beings entirely shouldn't be worried.

NAVii debuted in eleven Lowe's locations in San Francisco over a year ago, and initial reports indicate that both customers and employees have quickly adapted to the robot's presence. Plans are in place to roll-out NAVii to more stores in the near future.

"NAVii helps associates focus on customers more, as less time is spent on inventory tasks," said Mascorro. "I think one of the things we're starting to see is robotics and AI becoming more a part of things. These guys, these robots, what we're actually seeing is them starting to digitize stores. So, what happens is, the inventory becomes digitized and the retailer becomes more powerful by being able to sell things online - on ecommerce websites and other platforms - that they couldn't do before because the inventory data wasn't accurate enough."

Final Thoughts

By taking the hard work out of inventory management and customer assistance, NAVii provides an elegant solution to many of the pain points experienced by retailers. A natural progression of the self-service checkout innovation, we could be seeing a lot more NAViis rolling around our favorite stores pretty soon.

The final word goes to Marco Mascorro. "We worked hard to make sure these things are friendly, and that they're a part of the store. We didn't want customers to look at it and think, oh, there's a machine standing here. We want them to be just another part of the shopping trip."

Automation in inventory management is set to be a hot topic at Future Stores West 2018 this June at the Sheraton Seattle, WA.

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