Ahold Delhaize is on the lookout for a floor scrubbing robot, and it wants your help. Well, it wants your help if you’re a small startup that already has an existing prototype or MVP of a floor cleaning robot.
The Dutch grocery giant’s AI for Retail (AIRLab) unit kicked off the Cleaning Bot Challenge today in an effort to automate the process of cleaning store floors. Ahold Delhaize described the problem in a post kicking off the challenge:
In supermarkets, floors are cleaned once a day before each store opens. It takes cleaning personnel an average of two hours every morning to sweep the floors for dirt, mop the hard-to-reach corners, and then go through the store with a ride-on floor scrubber. It is certainly both a time-consuming and labor-intensive activity.
Ahold Delhaize’s AI for Retail (AIR) Lab is, thus, looking for a partner that can automate this process by creating an autonomous cleaning robot.
To be considered for the Cleaning Bot Challenge, participants must have a team of at least two co-founders and have an existing prototype of the robot. That robotic solution must be able to scale and the founders must be able to pitch their product in Dutch or English.
It’s not surprising that Ahold Delhaize is looking to automate cleaning its floors. Repetitive, manual tasks like floor scrubbing are perfect for robots. And in the age of COVID-19, cleaning is more important than ever, so you want to ensure the process is consistent and repeatable (two more robot attributes).
It’s also not surprising because Ahold Delhaize has basically gone all-in on robots. Last year the company’s GIANT/MARTIN’s and Stop & Shop stores ordered 500 aisle roaming robots to scan for messes on the floor. Ahold Delhaize has also partnered with Takeoff to build robotic micro-fulfillment centers at some of its retail locations. And Stop & Shop even installed a Breadbot at one of its locations.
What is a little surprising, is that given all of these robo-connections and experience, the company is holding a public contest to find a floor cleaning robot, especially since there are already floor scrubbing robots on the market. A year ago, Walmart announced it was deploying Brain Corp.’s autonomous floor scrubbing robots to 1,500 of its locations.
Were none of these solutions sufficient? What was lacking from existing robot partners that spurred a global hunt for something better? We reached out to Ahold Delhaize to find out more.
In the meantime, if you have a cleaning bot up your sleeve, you have until July 7 to complete your application.