How Technology Can Triple the Profit of a Grocery Store? PART 1
By Jussi Nummela, CTO, Blockstore Group
At Blockstore, we are committed to providing state-of-art autonomous grocery stores for our customers. To succeed we utilize quite a lot of latest technologies but some of these are not so commonly used in the grocery business. To make sure our solution works seamlessly, we need to make sure that the entire technology stack is working together.
As we get lots of questions about the tech we have, in this article I will give a brief look inside our technology stack and its role to run the grocery operations. The article is divided into two parts, this being PART 1 and PART 2 to be published in December.
• PART 1: General benefits of our tech , RFID and sensors
• PART 2: Character tracking, robotics, image recognition, mobile apps, edge computing and cloud services
The most important factor for autonomous smart store, after implementing all technology gadgets, is to be cost-efficient and profitable. Blockstore’s technology has several features supporting these goals, and below I have listed three most visible ones:
A. Automatic ordering and item level tracking
B. Efficient waste management
C. Frictionless and secure buying for customers
As automatic ordering as a term is easy to understand, it is more comprehensive feature than just sending orders automatically based on real-time inventory. When combined to item level tracking of goods we can get rid of local backroom and in-store stocks and only store goods at the DC or MFC.
This will take the smart store’s cost efficiency to a next level as it will mean smaller (more effective) facilities, no cold or frozen storage spaces at the stores, lower capex and energy consumption. All these leading to a situation that operational cost of a store is remarkably lower compared to traditional stores.
Waste management is strongly related to automatic ordering. Especially in on-demand ordering, where backroom storages do not exist, knowing the product´s expiration date is crucial to order the right amount. Especially with shorter lifetime and fresh products the effect of this is significant. This is a great example of what we can do (and are doing every day) with our technology.
Frictionless and secure buying is achieved with RFID-based smart cabinets combined with camera vision systems. This combination of different technologies enables ultra-convenient Walk In – Walk Out shopping process likewise safe and secure environment to both retailers and consumers.
In unmanned grocery store environment placing products to open shelves is challenging due to possible dirt and contamination on products (such as fruits, bread etc). Therefore in Blockstore solution part of the store infrastructure are closed cabinets where products are displayed. These intelligent cabinets are more vandal- and theft-proof, also during electricity loss, and last but not least, sustainable when electricity consumption is clearly lower combined to open shelf approach.
To give a deeper dive into our tech, I list and briefly explain different technologies we utilize in our daily operations :
As been working over 20 years in RFID business and still eagerly waiting a “hockey stick” to occur along grocery adoption, it’s amazing to see that RFID’s benefits can finally be utilized soundly in grocery. UHF RFID is one of Blockstore core technologies enabling digitized and autonomous smart stores and related supply chain.
Each item in the store have RFID tag attached and together with RFID Smart Cabinets (ambient, fridge & freezer) they enable real time visibility to inventory, best before dates and purchases of each customer.
Without this accurate and real time information about every single item in the store, we would not be able to use automatic ordering and offering management efficiently.
With RFID it always comes to discussion that “products need to be tagged and that costs”. Yes, everything has a cost, but in relation to benefits. Our solution also covers efficient and high-volume tagging operations (processes, devices and applications), which leads tagging cost to be clearly lower than gained benefits.
At Blockstore we use BLE sensors to sense when consumers are entering the store, which is a crucial phase in our Walk In – Walk Out shopping process. Obviously, this needs mobile device to work, so this specifically concerns users with mobile applications (buying with debit/credit cards is also possible if you are not so much into apps). BLE sensors indicate to the mobile app in the consumer’s pocket when she/he has entered the store and other related background actions will be started.
PART 2 in December will present rest of our technology stack: character tracking, robotics, image recognition, mobile apps, edge computing and cloud services.