Drones Help Power New Retail Inventory Tool


Pensa Systems has unveiled its new “retail inventory visibility system”: an approach that uses computer vision to “see,” artificial intelligence to learn, analyze and conclude, and autonomous drones as roving eyes to automate visual tasks.

In short, the system is designed to inform retailers and brands of what is actually on shelves – across all stores, everywhere, at any point in time.

“You can’t sell what you don’t have on the shelf. In-store inventory visibility remains a giant black hole for the retail supply chain,” says Richard Schwartz, president and CEO of Pensa Systems. “Retailers and brand manufacturers have tried all combinations of robots, cameras and smart shelving, but these solutions are too expensive, inaccurate and brittle. Pensa addresses this problem differently. By combining AI smarts in the cloud with inexpensive drones for remote data collection, we have created a scalable solution that can break the logjam.”

Pensa recently completed a successful pilot of its new inventory visibility system with global beverage company Anheuser-Busch InBev in the heavily trafficked store of retail partner IGA Extra Beck in Montreal, Canada. With less than 90 minutes of setup time, Pensa’s drone-based system collected hourly and daily data on out-of-stocks and real share-of-shelf within the beer section.

Over a period of two weeks, Pensa’s system scanned dry shelves and coolers with multiple product types (i.e., cans, bottles, packs), capturing 15.9 million SKU images during 200 flights (totaling 2 miles of travel), with its continuously learning accuracy already reaching 98% for out-of-stock detection.

“Any solution that can help us maintain store integrity and ensure we don’t have out-of-stocks provides the competitive advantage we need,” says Todd Beck, owner of IGA Extra Beck. “The ability to learn about a potential out-of-stock situation hours ahead of when our manual systems might notify us represents an opportunity to drive incremental sales and make customers happier in the process. The immediate feedback we can get from the Pensa system can offer tremendous value to our business.”

Pensa Systems recently raised $5 million in new funding to accelerate the deployment of its system. The company has now raised a total of $7.2 million. The new round was led by Signia Venture Partners, with participation from new investor Commerce Ventures, as well as existing investors ZX Ventures, ATX Seed Ventures, Capital Factory, Revtech Ventures and others.

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