Intel debuts $100m plan to overhaul retail with IoT, robots and AI

17 Jan 2017

Tally, a retail robot developed by Simbe Robotics using Intel tech. Image: Intel

Window shopping is quickly becoming a thing of the past. To that end, Intel has debuted its IoT retail platform, driven by technologies such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence.

While the internet of things and data analysis have already entered the retail industry supply chain to some degree, the customer side of the business is yet to be radically transformed. That may be about to change.

Intel has unveiled what it is calling the Responsive Retail Platform (RRP), an effort to fill major high street stores with sensors, robots and 3D printers.

The robot takeover begins

In an announcement at NRF 2017 – one of the largest retail conferences in the world – Intel explained that the RRP will connect all aspects of a store, from the items in the showroom to the stockroom.

The basis of the platform will be Intel’s RFID sensors – though the company has said it will be extendable to third-party sensors, as well – to allow the tracking of inventory in stores, and to do things like gathering data for the shop owner on customer trends and tastes.

Powering the sensors will be Intel’s established Core i7 processor, but the company has said that, depending on the results found during the initial roll-out, it could expand RRP to the more powerful Xeon processor.

On-demand, in-store 3D knitting

Also showcased at the launch was a robot that would do little to ease fears of a robot takeover of the workplace.

3D knitting

An on-demand, in-store 3D knitting machine powered by Intel technology. Image: Intel

Developed by Simbe Robotics, and driven by Intel hardware, Tally is one of the world’s first robotic autonomous shelf auditing and analytics solutions for retail, which roams a store telling the manager that products are always stocked, in the right place and displaying the correct price tag.

Some other technologies making their debuts were on-demand, in-store 3D knitting; real-time, data-driven clothing; and interactive product displays to target customers more directly, whether that be in this reality, or a virtual one.

During his on-stage address, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said that the company plans to spend $100m on RPP over the course of the next five years. The company announced late last year that it plans to spend up to $250m on autonomous driving tech.

“[Virtual reality] will help customers and retailers use data and analytics to maximise investment and impact in retail. It could be a game changer,” Krzanich said in a blog post.

“With technology like robots and [artificial intelligence] to free up employees, every aspect of the store and supply chain will allow retail employees to better focus on the customer and improve the store’s performance.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic