Spotlight on StockBot: NRF 2022 and RFID robots for your store

The retail robot Stockbot at the NRF 2022 event

PAL Robotics at NRF 2022 with StockBot for retail robotics

The team at PAL Robotics recently attended NRF 2022 – Retail’s Big Show in New York. The annual National Retailer Federation event for retailers, vendors, and industry experts provides a networking opportunity along with a large-scale exhibition, talks, innovation labs, and ideas sessions. We were delighted to return to exhibit at the NRF, which is one of the biggest events for retailers and retail technology providers, along with our StockBot, inventory tracking, and data collection robot, which performed live demos using RFID robotic technology in our booth for visitors. 

Sessions at the event regarding robotics, new technology, and retail included, “Rethinking retail and technology to meet sustainable consumer living standards and expectations”, “AI demand planning: A game-changer redefining traditional practices reducing inventory, returns and markdowns”; “Reshaping the role of technology leadership for 2022 and beyond”, and “What’s next for the last mile? Bracing for change.” 

We welcomed retailers to our booth to talk retail solutions with our experts, who are experienced in working with organisations globally, to improve their in-store operations through the implementation of our StockBot solution. At our booth, visitors had the chance to understand more about how StockBot RFID works, in scanning items in-store and tracking inventory automatically in order for retailers to know exactly what they have in stock at any given moment, bringing multiple benefits. 

The stands and centres of the NRF 2022 event

PAL Robotics' stand at the NRF 2022

Different versions of our StockBot solutions are available to retailers – StockBot RFID: which works with tag IDs (EPCs) and their location, StockBot VISION: which uses pictures with their location, and StockBot COMBO: which is a combination of both types of data.

Here we will focus on how RFID robots work, and in particular our StockBot RFID solution.

RFID robots for your store

RFID technology is bringing huge improvements in automating the tracking of merchandise throughout the whole retail supply chain. The cost of RFID technology has fallen significantly in recent years, making it more accessible to retailers. An increase in demand for RFID equipment challenges the role of handheld inventory readers. RFID robots go a step further by enabling stores to programme regular automated inventory tracking and data collection, bringing numerous benefits.

How RFID robots work

RFID robots work by circulating close to products with RFID tags in order to scan them, providing product information that’s available for viewing through the robot. They typically include features such as autonomous navigation and obstacle avoidance, autonomous docking and charging, and the ability to schedule inventories as regularly as desired by the customer.

  • Tags: Tags are placed on all items in the store that are for sale. The tag stores information that is tracked by antennas in the RFID robot.
  • Antennae: RFID antennas are typically located on the sides of the RFID robot and have beams to detect tags. The antennas can often detect several tags at the same time.
  • Readers: A radio frequency identification reader (RFID reader) processes information the antennas have scanned from the RFID tags. The reader filters out unnecessary information, such as scanned information that has been duplicated.

The RFID reader emits radio waves through different antennas so that the signals are bounced back by the tags and received by the same antennas. The approximate location of each tag with respect to the robot is then calculated by the reader by measuring the distances estimated from each antenna reception time. As the robot moves, it collects data and information from each tag. The RFID robot is able to locate itself inside the store or warehouse continuously. RFID solutions are able to plan paths from start point to endpoint, finding the optimal routes.

RFID Navigation

To navigate, the robot uses RFID tasks as landmarks to help with path planning and initial map creation. The robot is able to automatically move along a path until a tag is found. The robot then refers to the map for where to go next. With RFID a robot’s pose is calculated by information from the RFID tags. Mobile robot navigation systems can typically be split into three types: Inertial systems (positioning relative to a known starting point), Absolute systems (using beacons, landmarks or satellite-based signals), and Hybrid or fusion systems (use of more than one navigation system). 

Benefits of RFID robots

Being able to track stock regularly helps to avoid errors in inventory management, and makes it easier to understand what’s in stock and then only order the right amount to meet customer demand. This also helps to ensure that products are not oversold, as well as helping to reduce overstocking. Some of the other benefits include:

  • Sales Trends Identification

Programming regularly inventories also helps to identify sales trends, including data such as volumes of products sold.

  • Staff on higher-value tasks

Doing inventories using an RFID robot helps to free up staff to work on higher-value tasks and to have more time to spend with customers.

  • Technology cost reduction

As the robot is able to move around the area – to have RFID technology in the area instead would incur higher costs per square meter.

  • Improved customer experience

Tracking stock ensures customers find the products they are looking for at the right time, improving customer satisfaction.

RFID in retail is a sector that’s growing fast in popularity and there are many predictions for its future. In some ways, the RFID revolution in retail is still in its infancy. As well as retail, RFID technology is also used in sectors such as logistics, manufacturing, and healthcare. To read more about RFID robotics, download our latest whitepaper

An example of successful deployment of RFID robotics technology through the inventory tracking and data collection solution by PAL Robotics, StockBot RFID is at world-leading sports retailer Decathlon. Read more about our collaboration with Decathlon.

Recently we interviewed Sébastien Teneveau, RFID Robot Product Owner at Decathlon, and Jordi Pagès, Head of Intralogistics at PAL Robotics to find out more about how StockBot operates in Decathlon stores. See more in our video:

PAL Robotics’ retail robot StockBot

Our StockBot robot automates daily inventory tracking and provides data to inform decisions in stores and warehouses. Data includes access to applications such as out-of-stock situations and misplacements detection, planogram, and price tag checking. 

StockBot is the most mature solution in the inventory tracking solutions market and our team is working with some of the biggest retailer brands in order to ensure the solution keeps improving to be able to meet industry demands. The robot is ready to use with a single setup and without changing the layout of the store or warehouse.

If you would like to learn more about our retail robot StockBot, take a look at our blog on research and robotics to read more. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team of experts to ask more about StockBot’s capabilities for improving operations in your store, or to book a demo for your store. 

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