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Simbe Robotics Brings RFID to Computer Vision Robot

The robot, known as Tally, captures images and RFID tag reads from store fronts and back rooms, in order to track inventory levels and collect data regarding store displays and their effectiveness related to sales.
By Claire Swedberg
Jul 23, 2018

California technology company Simbe Robotics has released an RFID-enabled version of its Tally robot. This, according to the company, makes Tally one of the few robots on the market that leverages both computer vision and RFID-based data, as well as having built-in machine-learning capability.

That combination of technology, Simbe Robotics reports, enables companies—such as retailers of electronics, sporting goods or apparel—to access highly accurate inventory counts, along with images of the displays in their stores. With machine learning, the robot can predict where tags are located, the kinds of products to which they are attached and how many there will be, based on their in-store locations. Three companies are currently using the RFID functionality in the robot, says Brad Bogolea, Simbe's founder and CEO, who adds that the system has been commercially released this month.

Tally leverages both computer vision and RFID-based data to access accurate inventory counts.
Simbe, founded in 2014, launched Tally a year later as an autonomous robot that uses computer vision to scan store shelves with a built-in camera. Its software could analyze product placement, as well as identify inventory levels and out-of-stock problems. The system works well for general marketing and inventory data, Bogolea says, as well as for identifying packaged products that can be recognized with camera-based data.

There are instances, however, when RFID provides mores specific data than computer vision can. Clothing and other goods may be difficult to visually identify and thus pose a challenge for computer vision. A blouse or a pair of pants on a hanger can come in a variety of sizes and styles that the system cannot discern.

As the use of RFID has been growing in the retail market, especially among such high-value goods as sportswear, garments and electronics, Simbe has begun building UHF RFID functionality into its Tally system. Although there are RFID robots already in use in the retail market, Bogolea says, Tally is different in several ways.

For one thing, Bogolea explains, the company designed the latest version of Tally to employ both computer vision and RFID, so that users can use either or both technologies. For instance, many goods still do not have RFID tags attached to them, so a store could employ the computer-vision functionality for those products, while utilizing RFID for items that have EPC UHF RFID tags attached.

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