The store of the future is packed with smart technology
What does the physical store of the future look like? We predict that retail will further digitalise with automation, robotics and smart technology. Welcome to the future.
Digitalisation and automation at Colruyt Group
“Our mission as an innovation hub is to add impetus to the digitalisation, automation and robotisation of Colruyt Group’s stores, distribution centres and transport. To this end, we test innovative technologies capable of making our company future-proof,” Greg Pinte, technology manager at Smart Technics explains. "We use proven technology, but also develop products and services in-house. To achieve all this, we work together with our colleagues from IT, Technics & Engineering and the other support services of our group. Together, we form a diverse team of experts in robotics, computer vision technology and cybersecurity, software engineers, IT architects, project engineers, technicians and more."
What will the physical store of the future look like?
If you ask us, we predict the further digitalisation of physical stores, which will make smart use of data, computer vision, the Internet of Things and, yes, even robotics. Below is an overview of some of the projects we recently completed.
Examples of smart technology at Colruyt Group
- Open 24/7
- Self-service, no store staff
- Smart (refrigerated) cabinets with product detection
We apply this technology at OKay Direct, Jims and Spar For You.
- Computer vision technology
- More ergonomic for store staff
- 20 % faster
- Internet of Things
- Employees scan a product bar code with an app, which makes the corresponding price label light up at the store
- 1.5 hours a day saved when stocking shelves
- Based on computer vision technology, machine learning and sensors
- Small trolleys for home delivery of groceries
- Autonomous forklifts in our distribution centre
What are the benefits of smart technology in retail?
"Computer vision, weight cells, Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, machine learning, etc. All these are digital technologies. This offers a lot of advantages, such as scalability, for example," Jeroen Diels, project engineer at Smart Technics, explains. "Once the hardware and software are fully in place, they are fairly easy to roll out to another location. For example, the OKay Direct in Lennik runs on exactly the same software as the one in Ghent. By the way, did you know that computer vision adapts itself to its environment? The cameras calibrate themselves and adjust their settings where necessary."
"Digital technologies can also be easily adjusted remotely. Just one example: the shelves at OKay Direct are filled by a store employee. Suppose this person accidentally puts a product in the wrong place. Then, I can remotely adjust the setting so that our smart fridge still recognises this new product."
How do Smart Technics and Colruyt Group IT work together?
"The pilot phase of a project is a relay race, with Smart Technics and IT holding the baton together. At Smart Technics, we are driven by innovation and speed. Our focus is on ‘phygital automation’: physical and digital automation. To then integrate those applications into our company's existing IT systems, we work closely together with our colleagues at Colruyt Group IT," says Greg. "Because while our smart cameras can recognise bar codes, they need to know which code corresponds to which product, and to which current price. And our self-propelled forklift can indeed move pallets by itself, but we also need to know which products are on those pallets."
"Moreover, the cybersecurity experts in the IT department check whether the new technology is secure. Once the technology is watertight and working like clockwork, IT and Technics & Engineering see to its large-scale rollout to all stores or distribution centres. They also ensure that the system is properly maintained and that updates or optimisations are performed. This large-scale rollout really allows us to make efficiency gains.”
PMI Chapter Event
Jeroen is one of many speakers at PMI Belgium and Colruyt Group's PMI Chapter Event. An instructive evening of inspiration and networking for project managers and other IT professionals. The presentations follow the Pecha Kucha principle: 20 visual slides, each lasting 20 seconds. Some of the topics:
- The digital store of the future
- Mussels from the sea farm
- From idea to concrete project
- Intercultural collaboration