RFID technology has been popping up more and more in retail. This time German clothing brand, Adler, is using RFID inside a robot to do faster and more efficient inventory checks. In addition to its inventory capabilities, Tory, as the robot is named, can use its touchscreen to locate any item a customer is looking for.
In all of Adler's stores, all merchandise is tagged with UHF RFID tags. Previously before Tory, an employee would go around using a scanner to do inventory. However, with Tory's camera and laser based system it can navigate the store and do inventory checks on its own ten times faster. A robot similar to Tory and made by MetraLabs has been around since 2009, however at the time, there were not enough stores using RFID-enabled tags to be beneficial. Adler started using Tory in October 2015. To date, there are more than 200 MetraLab robots being used in various companies. Adler, specifically, plans on remaining in the test run phase with up to ten robots until they can analyze its performance and benefits.
Tory's inventory paths can be set up using remote control or smartphone. However, the favored method is by pushing Tory as it memorizes the given path around the store. After Tory is configured it is capable of navigating the path even when people or objects are in the way. The robot can use an algorithm to change routes to avoid objects, while not leaving any inventory unchecked.
Tory is also self-sufficient. Tory can be started and stopped at any time. Through a long work day, Tory can charge itself up without having to be done by an employee. In Adler's stores, Tory is used at night when employees are not working to do inventory. While during the day, Tory works as a sales assistant. However, Adler emphasizes Tory isn't there to replace sales associates. Tory is there to help find items, not sell items.
One thing that was failed to be mentioned was Tory's storage capabilities. Tory can read up to 250 tags in one second which are then transferred via wifi to a database. However, if wifi is down Tory is capable link to the database using a cord. With 250 tags a second how many tags is Tory capable of holding at night before an employee can transfer the information in the morning?
Additionally, when it comes to customers using Tory to find items, how will customers know the exact name to be typed into the system? While shopping customers may be looking for the black shirt in the front window, but what are they supposed to type in Tory for that specific shirt?
Lastly, if many people are looking for specific items, how long will it take for Tory to help all customers in need? Is Tory a good idea for human interaction during the shopping experience or is it just a good idea for inventory checking?