The Evolving Definition of Retail and Robot

May 2, 2018 Monica Weglicki

The sentiment from ShopTalk 2018 attendees was the following – that retail in ten years will be vividly different from the past ten. But what’s driving this perception?

Most people would agree that the driver of these changes is the availability of new technologies for shoppers and retailers. Brick and mortar has been in business for over 100 years, which makes the online experience a new phenomenon in comparison. And online has already transformed retail in many ways. But the pendulum is swinging back to the real estate space becoming a strategic asset. In fact, Amazon Go’s proof of concept store is a testament to this pendulum swing.

If the next ten years will bring dramatic change in retail, it will be in the store. As the online customer experience has raised buyer expectations, purchasing in-store must be as intuitive and easy as the best online website or app, but applied to the physical environment. The store will need to react to the shopper's needs, predict their questions based on location, provide experiences relevant to the products nearby, and much more.

To be able to do all of this, the brick and mortar store needs to be more like a robot.


What is a robot?

What image comes to mind when you think of a robot? For most it is an android machine or close to it, with humanlike features such as joints, face, arms, etc. For others, it might be the mechanical arms that are building cars or packing product across the globe. However, new technology is challenging our current definition of a robot.

A self-driving car. A self-cleaning vacuum. An airplane on autopilot. These could all be classified as modern-day robots.  According to Anca Dragan of UC Berkley, a robot is a "physically embodied artificially intelligent agent that can take actions that have effects on the physical world." 2. While different roboticists may have different definitions, the standard paradigm in use for over two decades has not wavered – the sense-think-act paradigm.

The sense-think-act paradigm has three criteria for defining a robot. First, a robot is a physical object that can sense the world around it. Second, it can think either through a preset programmed code, or more recently through artificial intelligence. And finally, it can act in a way that has an impact on the world around it.


About Vinod Kashyap

Director, Product Market Development for AtriusTM IoT at Acuity Brands, Inc.

For 15+ years, Vinod Kashyap has been engineering and developing nascent technologies in hardware, firmware and software. Vinod most recently focused on the development of the full IoT solution stack for Indoor Positioning Solutions (IPS) deployed via lighting infrastructure for the Acuity Brands technology business. His experience leading operations and product strategy has yielded a strategy mindset bridging the physical to the digital world, which leverages customer insights to develop integrated solutions.



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