Boss Nova’s robots are autonomous, six-foot tall machines equipped with 15 different cameras. As they move down a store aisle, they scan for missing or misplaced inventory and alert store management to take proper action.
The move is part of a bigger robotic push Walmart is embarking on. In April of last year, the company made its initial increase in Bossa Nova’s robots and also put Bain’s floor scrubbing robots in 1,500 locations and doubled the use of automated scan and sort robots to 600 locations.
In November of last year, Bossa Nova announced the newest version of its robot. The Bossa Nova 2020 features a slimmer design, smarter cameras that can see deeper into shelves and a number of attachments to scan other areas of the store like frozen food and produce sections.
When Walmart first started rolling out Bossa Nova’s robots in October of 2017, the retailer said the automated shelf scanners were 50 percent more productive and three times faster than a human doing the same job. Walmart didn’t provide Bloomberg with any update on productivity stats, saying only that they have reduced out-of-stock products.
There will be more robots running around your local grocery store over the next year. In addition to Boss Nova, there is Simbe Robotics, which has a deal with Giant Eagle stores, and which raised $26 million in September of last year.
Of course, there is the whole question of whether robots are just a stop gap for automated inventory management. Walmart launched its Intelligent Retail Lab store last year, which uses banks of cameras to monitor inventory in real time. And Singapore startup Trax says that its camera-based inventory management system has increased sales for its retail partners by one percent. One percent on its own doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you operate at the scale of a national chain, that one percent can translate into sizeable revenue that is just sitting on the table.
Bossa Nova is aware of this potential shift away from robots. When I spoke with the company last year , they said that what they are most interested in is the data, no matter where it comes from: robots, cameras, smart shelves — whatever.
But until those days come, expect more stores to do more with robots like Bossa Nova’s.