- Kroger is partnering with the UK-based Ocado to build warehouses designed to pack a 50-item grocery order in minutes.
- The deal will give Ocado immense power to shape the future of the grocery industry in the United States.
- Ocado’s chief technology officer, Paul Clarke, offered a glimpse of what’s to come by sharing insight into how the company thinks about robots in a post published by the Harvard Business Review.
- “It is still ‘early days’ for AI,” Clarke wrote. “Consumers have yet to get a real taste for it, but when they do, it will become a powerful new drug.”
The weapon is Ocado, a UK-based online supermarket with robots that can pack a 50-item grocery order in a matter of minutes.
Kroger said Thursday that it had partnered with Ocado to bring the company’s cutting-edge technology to the United States. As part of the agreement, Ocado will help Kroger, the nation’s largest grocer, build at least 20 of its futuristic, robot-powered warehouses.
The deal will give Ocado, which views robots as a “powerful new drug,” immense power to shape the future of the grocery industry in the US. It will also help Kroger better compete with Amazon, which is delivering online grocery orders from Whole Foods stores in several cities.
“Ocado’s current logistics and technical expertise in supporting online grocery fulfillment in Europe allows Kroger to potentially leapfrog both Walmart and Amazon in this space,” said Diana Sheehan, the vice president of retail and shopper insights at Kantar Consulting.
What does that mean for US shoppers?
It means faster, cheaper delivery options for ordering groceries online. It also increases the presence of robots packing grocery orders.
Ocado’s chief technology officer, Paul Clarke, offered a glimpse of what’s to come by sharing insight into how the company thinks about robots in a post published this week by the Harvard Business Review.
“It is still ‘early days’ for AI,” Clarke wrote. “Consumers have yet to get a real taste for it, but when they do, it will become a powerful new drug. They will demand that all their products display this new level of smartness, develop a hunger for applications and services to get ever smarter, and expect them to ‘play smartly’ with one another.”
Clarke said Ocado uses “swarms of purpose-built robots” in “highly automated” warehouses to fill customer orders.
He has grander visions for the role of robots in society, as well, saying they are the key to solving problems “that are beyond our human minds.”
“Our increased understanding of this field could help us tackle major societal challenges such as how to provide remote medicine, care, and companionship for our growing elderly demographic,” he wrote. “AI could even help us reverse the impact of challenges such as climate change, pollution, and poverty. With all this at our fingertips, it is of paramount importance that we put this technology to good use.”