March 5, 2017


How robotic delivery will disrupt the grocery industry (CHRISTIAN FRITZ, MARCH 5, 2017, Venture Beat)

Currently, if you are an average consumer, you go to the supermarket around 1.6 times per week and each time you spend on average around $32, or $51.20 per week. If each trip takes 30 minutes, you incur an opportunity cost of 0.8 times your hourly wage per week (the median hourly wage for people with a Bachelor's degree or more is currently approximately $24 in the U.S.), which means you essentially pay a 37.5 percent markup on the groceries you buy for going shopping yourself. [...]

But what if you could get groceries in less than two minutes without even leaving your apartment? Another beer? This time try an amber rather than the lager you just had? Think guacamole would go extremely well with those Doritos you just opened? Missing an egg for Sunday morning pancakes? In other words, what if you could get groceries quickly delivered to your door with the click of a button or by saying, "Alexa, get me a beer"?

This and a lot more will be possible in the next five years as robots become more reliable, inexpensive, and efficient. In-door delivery robots could remove items from refrigerated shelves in the basement and ferry them upstairs to apartment dwellers. The automated "bot-marts" could be operated by grocery retailers or residential property management companies. Together with RFID-based payment systems, loading and unloading mechanisms to and from the fridge, and AI algorithms to optimize inventory and restocking management, delivery bots could autonomously supply a building's residents with groceries. (Full disclosure: I work for a robot-delivery company. While we have an offering for apartment buildings, we don't handle groceries, and we don't offer automated refrigeration or restocking.)

Because software could track the demand for specific items, these mini-marts could automatically order supplies as needed, eliminating waste. Since most consumers actually don't change their grocery purchasing habits all that much each week, such a system could rather quickly learn what its residents like to eat and drink and make sure to always stock those items. This means you could have a never-empty fridge without ever having to go to the grocery store again.

Posted by at March 5, 2017 6:13 PM