"Shelf"-aware drones monitor inventory in real time

By Folake Dosu  |  January 24, 2019

robotics-drones-Pensa-Systems

Stocking shelves in retail can feel Sisyphean. As Popular Science describes, “Customers come in, rummage around, sometimes buy some stuff, maybe put other stuff back in the wrong place, and leave, with the retail staff left to clean up the mess. Repeat, every day, forever.”

For retailers and brands, mismanaged shelves can spell millions in lost sales. The outlet reports how startup Pensa Systems manufactures drones that gather real-time in-store inventory data for both retailers and brands.

The drone works by whirring around a store and checking items on both normal shelves and coolers against planograms, the map that retailers use for ideal product placement.

“You can’t sell what you don’t have on the shelf. In-store inventory visibility remains a giant black hole for the retail supply chain,” said Richard Schwartz, president and CEO of Pensa Systems, in a press release. 

“Retailers and brand manufacturers have tried all combinations of robots, cameras and smart shelving, but these solutions are too expensive, inaccurate and brittle. Pensa addresses this problem differently. By combining AI smarts in the cloud with inexpensive drones for remote data collection, we have created a scalable solution that can break the logjam.”

“Retailers and brand manufacturers have tried all combinations of robots, cameras and smart shelving, but these solutions are too expensive, inaccurate and brittle. Pensa addresses this problem differently. By combining AI smarts in the cloud with inexpensive drones for remote data collection, we have created a scalable solution that can break the logjam.”

According to Popular Science, Pensa conducted a pilot with world’s largest brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev, integrating with existing retail locations to reduce upfront work. The pilot was a success - at a Montreal store, Pensa’s data-gathering within the beer section led to a 98 percent success rate on out-of-stock detection over 200 test flights.

“Retail out-of-stocks represent a significant challenge for CPG companies and their retail partners, as they can lead to millions of dollars in lost sales,” said Andrew Green, Global Director of Innovation at AB InBev., in a press release “We are very enthusiastic about Pensa’s novel approach to retail inventory visibility and look forward to testing it in further commercial environments.”

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