Summer 2022 featured scorching temperatures and retail innovations in robotic, cloud and freshness technology.
As always, summertime has come and gone fast enough to give some of us the blues. But summer always leaves behind great memories, which this year include several notable retail technology implementations.
Following is a look at how retailers turned up the heat in the areas of robotics, cloud computing, and product freshness automation during summer 2022.
A new definition for ‘robotic store’
Robotic technology is retail is not itself a new trend, but summer 2022 saw one quick service retailer leveraging robotic automation in a very novel way, Mezli, a fully-autonomous robotic restaurant that resembles a large refrigerated container, opened in the Spark Social food park in San Francisco in August. The high-tech eatery is described by its founders as the “first of its kind in the world.”
While other automated restaurants have opened in San Francisco and other select locations, Mezli is the first to offer a customizable, hot menu to customers— with no on-site workers, according to its founders. (Staffers will load the pre-prepared ingredients into the site once a day.)
The automated approach, which significantly cuts labor costs, will allow Mezli to offer its menu of Mediterranean grain bowls, sides and beverages at a significantly lower price point than similar fast-casual restaurants, the company said. In addition to the ready-made bowl offerings, customers using touchscreens can assemble their own from available ingredients, creating around 64,800 possible combinations.
Showing backbone – in the cloud
In June, global fast-fashion retailer H&M Group began partnering with Google Cloud to leverage the platform’s data analytics capabilities and global enterprise in an effort to enhance its customer experience and supply chain operations.
This cloud-based enterprise data backbone will include a core data platform, data product, and advanced artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) capabilities. H&M also plans to establish of a new data mesh to make all types of data and events more accessible from multiple sources, including in-store, online, and third-party brands and suppliers.
As its enterprise cloud partnership with Google develops, the retailer hopes to optimize its internal supply chains. The company also intends to obtain the ability to deliver next-generation customer experiences across a variety of physical and data sales channels. In addition, H&M wants to enable further development of data science and AI capabilities throughout its global enterprise.
Freshness above all (Internet of) things
Grocers are using an increasingly innovative variety of smart technologies to cut food waste by improving in-store freshness. In July, Wisconsin-based regional grocer Festival Foods announced it was ensuring food safety and minimizing shrink with Internet of Things (IoT) technology.
The retailer utilizes Bluetooth IoT sensors from SmartSense to automatically and continuously monitor the temperature of coolers, refrigerators, and chilled cases in all of its stores. Festival Foods placed SmartSense Bluetooth IoT sensors in all chilled and frozen product shelving units in all of its stores.
The Bluetooth sensors continuously take in temperature data, which is then transmitted to gateways that collect the data and send it to a centralized SmartSense database. Gateways operate with battery backup and cellular technology, so that even in the event of a power or network outage, they can still collect and transmit data in real time.
“We can look at the data and see trends, as well as opportunities to improve,” Joe Laufenberg, asset protection senior director, Festival Foods, said in an exclusive interview with Chain Store Age. “Before, we wouldn’t know there was an issue until an employee went out and checked the products, by which time they may have already been damaged. Our process was reactive; now it’s proactive.”