As long as consumers love low prices a trend will continue — the evaporating human employee.
Tuesday a Silicon Valley start-up unveiled Tally, a robot designed to help retailers track their shelves far better than a human employee could. Robots like Tally can’t do everything a person can, but they offer a reminder of how machines increasingly excel at roles long held by humans.
The idea behind Tally is to take inventory faster in a given store. Simbe Robotics chief executive Brad Bogolea says the robot could scan a CVS, Walgreens or small grocery store in 30 or 40 minutes. Tally can capture data on 15,000 to 20,000 products an hour, far more than a human employee…
The 38-inch tall Tally is programmed to navigate a store while stopping to take photos of shelves. These are uploaded to the cloud and compared against an idealized representation of the store to see if products are where they should be, and are properly priced. Computer-vision algorithms analyze what is out of stock, which products are facing the wrong direction and what is misplaced. A store manager then receives a report.
Before Tally is ready to work, a retail employee must first guide it through the store to help it build a map of where it can go. Or a store could send its floor plan to Simbe Robotics, which will then program a specific robot with a map of the space. Tally also includes a range of sensors so that it won’t crash into shelves or customers. It can see items on shelves up to 8 feet high…
Simbe Robotics believes the data it gathers from shelves would be of interest to more than just store managers. It’s interested in eventually selling the information — which it compares to a real-time Google Maps street view of an aisle — to brand managers. They could easily see how products are doing in a given shelf space, or how they are being presented in comparison to competitors.
Excepting skillful placement, display merchandising, poisonally I think you can achieve the same result with smart algorithms, sensible database management, point-of-sale software and oversight from experienced traffic managers. Exact fit to the kind of work I did in one of my careers, Guaranteed to drive you mad as a hatter. 🙂