Walmart revealed in December 2018 that it will partner with Brain Corp, a robotics tech startup, to bring autonomous floor scrubbers to some of its brick-and – mortar stores. The companies today announced in an extension of the relationship the Walmart-owned Sam’s Club will add 372 robot floor scrubbers to the hundreds of units it has already installed, covering every spot in its U.S. chain (about 600 stores). With the cleaning company Tennant (with whom Brain Corp has a partnership) and Brain Corp’s dual-function robot that incorporates cleaning and scanning capabilities, the retailer will also broaden its shelf analytics pilot.
For big box shops, robots (and even drones) are coming, promising to save time by inventorying stock and sweeping floors autonomously. Research and Markets expects the global demand for brick-and – mortar automation to be worth nearly $18.9 billion by 2023, which some analysts claim may minimize the missed revenue of billions of dollars attributed to misplaced and erroneously priced products. Robots also have the advantage of encouraging contactless shopping and working conditions that are physically remote. Researchers at Pompeu Fabra University discovered in a July study that over 195 different types of robots have been piloted in public spaces since the beginning of the pandemic.
Tennant T7AMR floor scrubbers designed to wet-scrub both rough and smooth hard surfaces, including concrete, tile, and stone, will be deployed by Sam’s Club. In addition, the retailer can expand its cloud-based analytics app after a six-month proof of concept, which helps verify the accuracy of item pricing, confirm compliance with the planogram, and ensure product availability. (In retail, planograms are visual representations of the goods or services of a store on display.) According to Brain Corp., the app will run on dual-function scrubbers where available.
After grocery stock inventory robot creator Simbe Robotics revealed it will put robots in 62 Schnucks Markets stores throughout the United States, Brain Corp is making its move. Simbe rival Bossa Nova earlier in the year committed to increasing its deployment of inventory robots from 350 Walmart stores to over 1,000 by 2021.
The brainchild of CEO Dr. Eugene Izhikevich and EVP Dr. Allen Gruber is BrainOS. Izhikevich explained to VentureBeat in an earlier interview that the pair built an operating system tailored to the needs of clients whose robots work in distribution centers, airports, and elsewhere. A learn-by-demonstration feature “teaches” machines to perform tasks based on manual operations, while congested corridors are accounted for by mapping and navigation algorithms. And over on-premises and cloud networks, the systems Brain Corp orchestrates communicate with each other, uploading new configuration files and updates as they idle.
Izhikevich said the bulk of the current work of Brain Corp is centered on exploring new BrainOS industries and applications, with the intention of making it a “normal technology for the robotics industry.” The company also aims to partner with robotics startups to extend BrainOS into “applications beyond floorcare,” especially in the areas of material handling and store operations.
Brain Corp, headquartered in San Diego, claims over 14,000 robots and 3 million autonomous field operating hours. The company employed a workforce of “way over” 200 people as of April. Recently, Brain Corp has raised $36 million, taking its sum to $161 million.
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