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  • Writer's pictureJohn Ennis

Eye on AI - November 6th, 2020

Welcome to Aigora's "Eye on AI" series, where we round up exciting news at the intersection of consumer science and artificial intelligence!


This week’s “Eye on AI” takes a detailed look at Ocado, the online grocery retailer using AI and tech to transform the grocery industry, then concludes with a look at the second generation pizza robot by Picnic.


How Ocado Grocery Embraced the Fourth Industrial Revolution

We begin with a look at Ocado, the UK-based online grocery that has emerged as a highly innovative company, and which was the focus of AI expert Bernard Marr’s Forbes article this week, titled “The Amazing Ways Ocado Uses Artificial Intelligence And Tech To Transform The Grocery Industry.” What makes Ocado so interesting, according to Marr, is its Ocado Smart Platform, an end-to-end e-commerce platform that helps it optimize warehouses, reduce food waste, provide better customer service and combat fraud.

Powered by big data, Ocado’s platform enables armies of robots to swarm around football-sized warehouses at back-breaking speed, completing up to 50,000 orders in just five minutes. It’s completely scalable, and can accommodate the evolving needs of online grocers, from seasonal changes to global pandemics. That’s because the platform is constantly evolving with the help of machine learning. Robots know what inventory is in stock, predict where other robots will be to avoid collisions, and are even able to monitor their own health to reduce downtime. This same type of machine learning is used throughout the Ocado platform to improve customer service, fraud production, and even reduce food waste.

“Ocado uses machine learning, artificial intelligence, and data analytics to slash its food waste to just losing 1 in 6,000 produce items,” writes Marr. “The Ocado Smart Platform determines the food customers want and need and adjusts orders from suppliers accordingly. The company's platform assesses 20 million forecasts each day to maximize freshness and availability while reducing overstock and waste… [It] also helps… by ensuring that products are stored or delivered in a way and at temperatures that reduce the likelihood of spoilage. It donates produce to those in need that are only a few days away from expiring.”

If Ocado’s platform were implemented by more grocery chains, it could potentially make a significant dent in the 1.3 billion tons of annual food waste lost each year, which is something the Ocado team is banking on.

“Today, the Ocado Smart Platform runs end-to-end e-commerce and is being sold to other brick-and-mortar grocery retailers such as Canadian grocer Sobeys, French retailer Groupe Casino, Aeon in Japan, Kroger in the United States, ICA in Sweden, and others around the world. Ocado Technology is helping to provide software as a service and hardware to help other grocers operate profitably and sustainably online.”

As food becomes more scarce in the time of climate change, solutions like these are essential to maintaining the global food chain. In combination with AI’s use in agriculture, researchers have already laid the groundwork for improving food distribution. AI will continue to advance. But if we hope for widespread adaptation, education and efficient, cost-efficient implementation will become essential.

Picnic Unveils 2nd Generation Pizza Robot

And now, a pizza party! Or rather, a pizza robot discussion. Picnic, the Seattle based pizza robot company, unveiled its second-generation automated pizza-making robot this week and hopes to capitalize on the contactless boom of the pandemic.

“The system, which like the first gen robot utilizes a conveyor belt and automatic dispenser modules, has a few noticeable differences,” writes Michael Wolf of The Spoon. “The biggest difference visually is that each module now is visible behind a glass casing and you can see the cheese, sauce, pepperoni and other ingredients containers as they dispense ingredients.The new robot comes on the heels of a recent fund raise by Picnic…. The new raise and robot come amidst an increasingly hot market for robotic pizza assembly, as companies like Middleby jump in.”

Scientists predict that the third wave of the pandemic will hit this winter. That means more cautious customers and more demand for contactless food. Expect Picnic’s pizza robot 2.0 to thrive in urban areas more prone to outbreaks. Check out the robot in action to see what you think.

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