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Driverless Mobile Store Leverages RFID to Bring Food to Customers

Retailer Stop and Shop plans to roll out unmanned vehicles, provided by Robomart, to deliver a selection of products, such as fresh produce, to be perused and purchased by Boston-area shoppers who request the store at their location.
By Claire Swedberg
Jan 29, 2019

National supermarket chain Stop and Shop is the first retailer with plans to deploy a driverless, RFID-enabled mobile store that will offer a selection of goods to shoppers wherever they are located. The solution is provided by San Francisco startup Robomart. RFID enables the system to track each product and identify when it has been removed from the vehicle.

The mobile store is designed to provide the kind of food selection found at a brick-and-mortar store, wherever a customer is located. By bringing an entire store to individuals, rather than simply delivering goods that fulfill a specific order, the Robomart system enables shoppers to select the products they want, based on what they see and feel. Stop and Shop says it has not yet finalized the number of vehicles it plans to deploy, or the specific stores or routes, nor has it decided on the assortment of products the vehicles will dispense. However, inventory will include fruits and vegetables, convenience items such as bread and milk, and meal kits.

The Robomart system lets shoppers select products without the need for them to visit a brick-and-mortar store.
Robomart was founded in 2017 by Ali Ahmed, Tigran Shahverdyan and Emad Rahim, who describe themselves as serial entrepreneurs. Together, Ahmed says, they brought expertise in on-demand delivery, retail operations and autonomous vehicles to the new technology company. "My cofounder Emad had the idea for Robomart almost 14 years ago," he states, "when both he and I worked at Unilever together." Rahim had considerable retail experience, while cofounder Tigran has built autonomous vehicles and robotics for several years through his previous startup, RoboCV. Ahmed's background is in on-demand delivery, he says.

The early concept was a vehicle that would make it possible for shoppers to purchase fresh produce and other products despite being nowhere near a brick-and-mortar store. They began testing the technology with a driverless vehicle in Alameda, and the first commercial deployment of this system will be with Stop and Shop. With the commercial deployments, Ahmed reports, consumers will have the ability to select their own groceries at their doorstep, without paying a delivery fee.

A user of the technology would first need to download the Robomart app, which is available for iOS- and Android-based devices, and set up an account with his or her payment credentials. Then, once that person wishes to shop, he or she can tap the "Request Now" app on the device. The system will identify the location of that consumer's phone, based on GPS data, and display a map of the closest driverless stores. The customer would select the store, and the system would respond to that request by driving to the user's location.

USER COMMENTS

Adrian Beck 2019-02-01 04:46:04 AM
Interesting concept although the picture suggests the vehicle will be offering lots of loose fruit and vegetables while the article states that all products will be tracked with, I presume, an RFID tag. Hard to see the ROI for a tag on every mushroom or apple! Looking forward to seeing how this evolves and the extent to which retail losses can be effectively controlled.

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