Exotec Solutions unveils ‘3D’ robotic retail order system

exotec skypod robots for logistics and retail e-commerce

French start-up Exotec Solutions is working with e-commerce giant Cdiscount to test a scalable, speedy autonomous robot network that could take order fulfilment to the next level. 

Ferrying items from one side of a warehouse to another is well within the operating parameters of many industrial robots. In fact, from online retailers such as Amazon to groceries from Ocado, the brute-force side of the order fulfilment process is increasingly dependant on nuts and bolts, AI and autonomous machines.

However, the final steps of picking, placing and packaging require a level of dexterity that only humans are capable of – although that too is changing. Ocado’s robots are getting smarter and events like Amazon’s Picking Challenge are enabling researchers to test out new techniques in real-world scenarios.

For now though, with the orders mounting up, online retailers are keen to speed up the process in any way possible.

Read more: Ocado’s robots offer ‘safe pair of hands’ for packing shopping

Taking order fulfilment to new heights

French AI robotics start-up Exotec Solutions is today launching Skypod Robots, an autonomous system designed to improve order processing speed and, according to the company, work two times faster than its rivals.

French e-commerce company Cdiscount has been testing the Skypods at its Bordeaux warehouse and seen order processing speed rise by a factor of four. The Skypod system is making an impact for three reasons.

First is the ability of the ‘3D mobile robots’ to scale shelves as well as roll around at ground level. Second is speed. Scuttling about at 10 mph, the robots can quickly transfer goods in the warehouse to human operators who handle packing and shipping. Third, according to Exotec, the robots’ laser scanner navigation system allows them to travel anywhere in the storage area, while carrying boxes weighing more than 60 pounds.

Read more: Walmart testing autonomous shelf-scanning robots

Exotec emphasizes flexible deployment

Romain Moulin, CEO of Exotec Solutions, suggests that a flexible, scalable system is best positioned to disrupt e-commerce logistics. “To respond to today’s market requirements, companies are putting the emphasis on deployment speed and flexible deployment capability rather than heavy fixed infrastructure in order to best respond to rapid fluctuations in demand,” he said.

“The Skypod addresses the needs of a new generation of customers who are looking for high performance and high-density systems that can be modified every two years.”

“From inception, the system has been designed to ensure fast deployment and full scalability. Skypod’s free navigation allows the robots to travel anywhere within the system, something the competition can’t offer today,” said Renaud Heitz, Exotec’s CTO and co-founder.

“The system’s software is powered by the latest artificial intelligence, allowing us to deploy on site within days instead of weeks.”

In December last year, Exotec raised $ 3.5million from 360 Capital Partners and Breega Capital.

Read more: Ecommerce giant Alibaba opens ‘China’s smartest warehouse’

The post Exotec Solutions unveils ‘3D’ robotic retail order system appeared first on Internet of Business.

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Apple Patents ‘3D Fabric’ for Future Apple Watch Bands

Future Apple Watch bands might do a lot more than just hold the device to your wrist. In fact, Apple is actively exploring how it can add additional functionality to the bands.

The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office published a trio of Apple patent applications on Thursday, each detailing a different method of developing advanced fabric-embedded technology. To be more specific, Apple is apparently exploring how to embed electrical components such as sensors, microphones, speakers, buttons, touch-sensitive switches and other user interface apparatuses into flexible fabrics. Of course, the applications are written in the typical dense, technical jargon. But they do hint at Apple’s greater ambitions with its Apple Watch platform.

3D Fabric Patents

The first of the patents, “Three-Dimensional Fabric With Embedded Input-Output Devices,” explains a method for creating 3D braiding devices that can weave fabric with small, internal pockets. These pockets can then be used to house a number of components, including touch pads, buttons, speakers, microphones, cameras and sensors.

The second patent, “Fabric with Embedded Electrical Components,” details a similar method of embedding important hardware within a woven material. These components could interface with a primary device by way of electrical contacts that act as terminals via conductive fibers. Essentially, they can send or receive commands to a device that they are attached to.

The third patent, titled “Fabric sensing device,” is arguably the most interesting. While its primary objective is hidden within dense language, it explains a method of creating a touch-sensitive textile or fabric. In essence, a fabric — whether a band or other wearable — could directly sense user touch or pressure. And its use could extend beyond Apple Watch bands, as the patent specifically points out that the sensing fabric could be embodied in a garment, such as a jacket sleeve.

Obviously, the implications of strap- or fabric-embedded sensors are wide-ranging. A future Apple Watch could incorporate textile-based sensors into its design, perhaps with the body of such a device becoming much more minimal. An advanced Watch band could sport contextual UI inputs, too — such as a specific fabric “button” to invoke Siri.

And, though it’s probably a ways off, the technology in the patents could certainly lead to other items of “smart clothing.” While an “Apple jacket” might seem like a far-fetched idea now, having items of clothing that integrate and interface with our devices is solidly within the realm of reality. Some would say that it’s only a matter of time before they’re on store shelves.

Apple has had plans for its Watch straps for quite some time now. Last year, Apple filed a patent application that suggested a wearable could become thinner by moving certain components — such as a haptic feedback motor — into its band or strap. While it’s looking unlikely that the upcoming Apple Watch Series 3 will utilize any of this technology, taken together, today’s patents could hint that Apple has bigger plans. Not only for its Apple Watch but for fabric-based and wearable technology in general.

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