Innovations and Start-ups: Frictionless Shopping, Drones & Robots, and More…

Martijn Graat
Martijn Graat

Trends and innovations in supply chain and logistics: that is what this blog is all bout. Therefore I bring you an overview of the news this week on logistics start-ups and innovations below. Follow @LogisticsMatter on Twitter to stay up to date with the latest news and the best background stories. The previous edition was Innovations and Start-ups: Self-driving Trucks, Drones, and Robots. This edition is about Frictionless Shopping at a retailer that you wouldn’t expect to test this. There are also stories on drones, robots and self-driving trucks, which are technological developments I keep watching closely. This round-up ends with news on logistics start-ups.

Fraction too Much Friction (~ Tim Finn)

In a store where you can shop frictionless, you simply move through the store, grab what you need and walk out again without a physical checkout. Amazon first piloted this concept in 2019. If there is one retailer I wouldn’t have expected to pilot frictionless shopping, it is Aldi, yet here they are! Chainstoreage.com reports:

The discount grocer is partnering with computer vision company Trigo Vision Ltd. to test an autonomous shopping experience at an Aldi Nord store in Utrecht, Netherlands. In the 4,300-sq.-ft. store, ceiling-mounted cameras connected to Trigo algorithmic technology will automatically track shoppers’ movements and product choices in the store in real time, enabling customers to walk into a store, pick up their desired items, and walk out without stopping at the checkout.

Drones in the Valley (~ Cage the Elephant)

Will our skies be filled with drones making deliveries? I’m not so sure about it, as I wrote earlier this week: Trends in Last-Mile Delivery. What’s in store for 2022. That doesn’t keep many companies from testing and researching the use of drones in supply chain and logistics environments. There are different uses.

The Port of Antwerp uses drones for safety purposes. Container News reports:

The utilisation of drones facilitates safety within the Antwerp Port’s complex environment of over 120 km², as a “fixed-wing” drone can fly around for more than eight hours and take pictures with a camera capable of zooming 30 times from a height of 280 metres.

DroneDek has designed the mailbox of the future, which can receive drone deliveries. Freightwaves reports:

The mailbox has a heating and cooling system within its cargo hold that will enable deliveries of food, beverages and pharmaceuticals among other sensitive shipments. It’s linked to an authentication software that validates deliveries with an electronic “handshake,” ensuring that the right drone is delivering to the right mailbox. O’Toole says the company is also looking to integrate with DocuSign to enable remote signatures for accepting certified or sensitive mail.

Elroy Air isn’t aiming at delivering small items last-mile but at transporting larger quantities in the middle-mile. Freightwaves reports:

Instead, Elroy Air hones in on heavier deliveries over the middle mile, which Merrill sees as both more feasible and more appealing. Bigger companies like Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) and DHL (OCTUS: DPSGY) have poured their resources into the last mile, but that means Elroy can solve an unmet need. He envisions the company’s drones flying from warehouse to warehouse or warehouse to airport, carrying anywhere from 300 to 500 pounds of cargo.

The final story on drones that caught my eye was about Dndata and Gather AI that are now using drones within a Dndata warehouse to increase efficiency. Air Cargo News reports:

The global ground handler partnered with Gather AI, a US-based technology start-up, as part of continued investment in technologies to maximise efficiency.

Gather AI’s software enables the drones to map the environment, collect inventory data, count cases, measure temperature, and read barcodes using only their cameras, without the need for any additional active infrastructure.

Drive My Car (~ The Beatles)

Three interesting items in the news about self-driving vehicles:

Air France KLM Martinair Cargo and Groupe ADP are testing self-driving vehicles at Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport. Air Cargo News reports:

The autonomous vehicle from French startup OROK is equipped with a GPS system, artificial intelligence and numerous sensors enabling it to access loading and unloading areas close to the aircraft.

They can carry pallets loaded with goods and ULDs and are intended to replace tractors and trailers usually used between cargo warehouses and aircraft parking stands.

Self-driving vehicle start-up Aurora is taking a different route than competitors. It has announced a subscription-based model for its autonomous cars and trucks. Will that be AVaaS (Automated Vehicle as a Service)? The Verge reports:

Aurora’s trucking service will be called “Aurora Horizon,” in which the company says it will provide trucking carriers and private fleets “with a reliable and scalable driver supply powered by the Aurora Driver.” The Aurora Driver is the name the company uses to describe the hardware and software it uses to enable a vehicle to drive itself under certain conditions.

Aurora’s customers won’t be individual truckers or ride-hailing passengers, but rather the logistics firms and companies that operate for-hire vehicle fleets. In that respect, Aurora is seeking to distinguish itself from other companies in the autonomous vehicle world, which are seeking to be both technology providers and fleet operators.

There is some money to be made in self-driving vehicles. According to Self-driving vehicle start-up and General Motors subsidiary Cruise sees a total revenue of 50 billion dollars in its future. But so far, self-driving technology start-ups have been having a hard time making money. TTNews reports:

Charging for self-driving vehicle services would be a significant step for Cruise and others that have spent billions trying to get autonomous technology ready and regulatory permission to run cars without a human safety driver. Technological progress and establishing approvals for robotic driving have taken longer than anticipated, making revenue elusive for startups. Cruise had to back off plans to deploy robotaxis in 2019 because it needed more time for performance and safety checks.

Start Me Up (~The Rolling Stones)

The final two stories I’d like to highlight for this week are about cyber security and delivery.

Tech startup gets $20 million backing to protect fleets from cyber attacks:

To build better defenses, Shift5 says its solution integrates directly onto existing vehicle platforms, collecting data from on-board digital components and continuously monitoring data streams for security and operational anomalies. Its analytics platform provides cybersecurity intrusion detection, smarter maintenance, and improved operational intelligence for fleet operators, the firm says.

Ohi nabs $19 million for delivery in under 20 minutes

Ohi is an e-commerce company that uses a countrywide network of microfulfillment centers and smart warehouses to provide what it bills as “instant commerce” – deliveries in two hours or less. Ohi’s service is targeted toward mid-market direct-to-consumer and enterprise brands to enable deliveries at Amazon Prime-like speeds straight from their own websites. To use the service, brands pay a monthly flat fee and a fee per order, which covers warehousing and delivery costs.

That’s it for this week. Which only leaves the final song:

Photo by Fabio Bracht on Unsplash

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