AI-powered robot Tally helps grocery stores manage inventory, boost sales

Tally is a robotic grocery store worker that keeps a precise inventory.
Image: Simbe Robotics | Nvidia

For those in charge of stocking shelves, keeping a constant inventory is a never-ending task. Thanks to today’s technology, it is getting easier. Robots outfitted with cameras and artificial intelligence (AI) are able to scan a store’s shelves and take accurate counts much faster than human employees.

One of these robots is called Tally and comes from Simbe Robotics. It is built around Nvidia’s Jetson platform to analyze the data being collected by the robot’s many cameras. By reducing its reliance on cloud computing, the robot is able to manage a store’s inventory more efficiently and guide decisions that result in higher revenue.

Speed Tracker

Imagine scanning 30,000 barcodes in an hour. That doesn’t even include the time it takes to organize and analyze the results. For a human, the task is impossible. However, it is exactly what Tally excels at.

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The tall, boxy robot roams the aisles of retail stores—typically grocery stores—up to three times each day. Its speed and edge computing features allow it to inventory the entire store during each trip.

Tally has a number of 2D and 3D cameras on board that allow it to identify and scan barcodes without stopping to find each one. Of course, the robot isn’t just looking for black and white lines. Its capabilities are far more advanced than a self-checkout kiosk or handheld scanner.

Simbe Robotics’ CEO Brad Bogolea says, “We’re providing critical information on what products are not on the shelf, which products might be misplaced or mispriced, and up-to-date location and availability.”

In a grocery store, this sort of constant monitoring can be a major advantage. It allows managers to keep items stocked while also tracking trends in real-time as customers pull things off the shelves. By keeping items in-stock, stores are able to boost their profits by selling more units. In a store without Tla

Making Progress

Although it seems futuristic, Tally is already working in many U.S. supermarkets. A number of noteworthy retailers are experimenting with the roaming bot. That includes Schnuck Markets, a Midwestern chain that has deployed the robot in 62 of its locations.

By integrating Tally’s product location information into its loyalty program app, the store is able to provide customers with real-time availability data. It can also tell shoppers exactly where to find the items they’re looking for.

In the days of COVID-19, this is extremely helpful. It helps get people in and out of stores much faster. Meanwhile, it also helps personal shoppers working for services like Instacart who may not be familiar with the store’s layout.

“Those that leverage technology and data in retail are really going to separate themselves from the rest of the pack,” Bogolea said in a press release.

He adds, “We’re capturing [data] at a far greater frequency and fidelity than has really ever been seen before. One of the benefits of leveraging Nvidia Jetson is it gives us a lot of flexibility to start moving more to the edge, reducing our cloud costs.”


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