Decathlon USA deploys mobile robot to retail store
Simbe Robotics' "Tally" bot conducts RFID inventory counts while dodging shoppers.
By Ben Ames
Robots are rolling into retail storefronts across America, with technology vendor Simbe Robotics Inc. giving the latest example today when it said its mobile "Tally" robot can now be seen navigating the aisles of sporting goods retailer Decathlon USA.
Simbe's robots cruise the aisles of brick and mortar stores, dodging shoppers and discarded merchandise as they use radio frequency identification (RFID), computer vision, and other sensors to conduct accurate inventory checks around the clock.
Earlier this year, Simbe added RFID scanners to its Tally platform, and then announced that the robots would be dispatched to at least 15 grocery stores in the Midwestern grocery chain Schnuck Markets Inc., following a 2017 pilot program.
The latest rollout brings this autonomous inventory robot to Decathlon's inaugural U.S. store, in downtown San Francisco. Decathlon opened its first store in Lille, France, in 1976 and says it has since expanded to become the world's largest sporting goods retailer, operating over 1,414 stores in 45 countries across the globe and designing its own brands.
In addition to establishing a toehold in the North American market, the site operates as a "lab store" where Decathlon can test new technologies, practice product development, and evolve in-store experiences, the company says. San Francisco-based Simbe says it will contribute to that plan by freeing store employees to focus on customer service while the Tally robots perform inventory audits and cycle counts, give alerts of low-inventory goods, flag misplaced items, and conduct visual audits of merchandise to enable inventory layout optimization.
Each bot conducts precise, daily inventory counts and provides precise location information for products, since shoppers in retail environments often pick up clothing and equipment and then replace them on the wrong shelf, Simbe Robotics CEO Brad Bogolea said in a briefing.
That job description covers more than 10,000 products tagged with RFID in a typical Decathlon store, a process that would take human employees many hours to complete. The San Francisco site has been using its Tally bot during normal shopping hours for over a year now, as part of Decathlon's efforts to design their own retail technology infrastructure for digital supply chain operations, Bogolea said.
"Decathlon's uniquely designed San Francisco flagship store is an environment that fosters significant interaction between customers, product, and store associates; with that comes unique merchandising challenges," Bogolea said in a release. "Decathlon has deployed Tally in a uniquely customer-centric environment, leveraging Tally's RFID capabilities to capture real-time insight into product flow, pricing, and availability by providing precise inventory audits and cycle counts, in addition to sharing the location of each product in store."
About the Author
Ben Ames has spent 20 years as a journalist since starting out as a daily newspaper reporter in Pennsylvania in 1995. From 1999 forward, he has focused on business and technology reporting for a number of trade journals, beginning when he joined Design News and Modern Materials Handling magazines. Ames is author of the trail guide "Hiking Massachusetts" and is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism.
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