Walmart will deploy Bossa Nova shelf-scanning robots at 650 additional U.S. stores by the end of summer 2020, bringing the devices to a total of 1,000 locations, according to Bloomberg. The six-foot robots traverse the aisles and use their 15 cameras to detect empty shelves, sending alerts to employees’ handheld devices.
The new shelf-scanners can handle tasks that previously took up to two weeks to complete as often as twice a day, according to Walmart officials. They are being rolled out as part of the retail giant’s wider efforts to reduce costs, improve store performance and boost innovation.
NCR Corp. is handling the installation and upkeep of the machines, which are expected to be in “the majority” of Walmart’s stores one day, according to NCR SVP and General Manager for Retail David Wilkinson. The existing machines have already traveled a collective 50,000 miles and scanned 500 million products, according to John Crecelius, VP of Innovations at Walmart.
Walmart started introducing the autonomous mobile robots last year, and they appeared in 50 stores by mid-summer. This number was increased to 350 over the course of 2019. The implementation was designed to test the support infrastructure of the robots and learn more about scalability.
“There is a requirement to get to a statistically relevant store sample size that will inform what scale looks like in my chain of stores,” said Martin Hitch, Co-Founder and Chief Business Officer of Bossa Nova in an August 2019 interview with Retail TouchPoints.
Walmart and Bossa Nova aren’t the only companies experimenting with robotics in the retail industry. Ahold Delhaize has rolled out automated robots in GIANT and Stop & Shop stores through a partnership with Badger Technologies, while Kroger and Ocado are using automated technology in warehouses.