Snapdeal trials robots for delivery of packets

E-commerce marketplace Snapdeal has tested last-mile delivery of packets using robots developed by autonomous mobility startup Ottonomy IO in a bid to address the safety concerns of consumers amid the pandemic.
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India’s Flipkart recently said it plans to offer 90-minute deliveries for groceries and home accessories, as the Walmart-owned online retailer goes head to head with Amazon.com in a key growth market for e-commerce.

Snapdeal, which competes with Flipkart.com and Amazon.com, said the robots use specialised Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms to navigate crowded areas and can run along sidewalks and local streets autonomously to deliver orders to nearby homes.

These robots use machine learning, fuse data from 3D Lidar and cameras to have a robust understanding of the external world.

Once the delivery robot arrives at the doorstep, the customer receives an alert. Through a unique QR code sent to the user, the hold area of the robot can be unlocked and the customer can retrieve their order.

Since the delivery robots can carry multiple orders at a time, the QR code used by the customer only unlocks the specific package hold area that contains the order placed by the user.

“We are investing heavily in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to develop future-oriented capabilities. Delivery via robots is part of the evolving future of logistics and we are excited to partner with Ottonomy IO to test these technologies,” a Snapdeal spokesperson said in a statement.

The pilot was conducted in multiple societies in Noida and Gurugram.

The delivery robots were stationed at the entrance of residential societies, wherein the delivery agent scanned a QR code and placed the package inside.

Equipped with the society’s map, the robot navigated to reach the consumer and disinfected the packet on the way.

The robots can be remotely monitored and controlled whenever human intervention is needed.

Ritukar Vijay, co-founder of Ottonomy IO, said: “Automating the last-mile delivery process and clubbing it with contactless interaction helps address safety concerns of both shoppers and delivery professionals.”

Amazon.com in 2019 acquired Canvas Technology, a robotics startup in Boulder, Colorado, that has built autonomous carts that can move goods around warehouses.

The world’s largest online retailer has automated its fulfillment centers with robots, originally from Kiva Systems which it agreed to buy for $775 million in 2012, that transport shelves of inventory to workers to pick customer orders.

Amazon has also also participated in a $530 million funding round in driverless car startup Aurora Innovation.