The New Status Symbol: Robot-Powered Store and Delivery in Your Luxury High-Rise
Plus 12 robots for 56,000 hotels, Kroger gets speedy and drone delivery at your window.
Wait, your luxury high-rise doesn’t have an autonomous store and delivery robot? Oh… Well, I’m sure it’s still nice.
Residents of the Skyland high-rise in Istanbul, Turkey enjoy a perk most luxury apartment buildings don’t have — Speedy Market, a fully autonomous convenience store on-site complete with robot delivery to your apartment door.
That’s right. If it’s the middle of the night and you want an ice cream treat, you just break out your phone, pull up the Speedy Market mobile app and place your order. The robot-powered store receives the order and hands it off to a robot that rides the elevator and brings the treat up to your apartment door.
Speedy Market sits neatly at the nexus of a lot of different trends including unattended retail, robot delivery and speedy grocery delivery. But as I wrote this week, it’s the only company I’ve seen unifying these trends through automation.
I spoke with the Speedy Market co-founders yesterday, and they gave me the skinny on the company’s technology, business model, and why building operators love their solution.
Given how many high-rise residences there are in the world, Speedy Market could definitely see adoption of its technology (high) rise quickly.
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Should Kroger hop on Food Rocket?
Over the past few years, grocery giant Kroger has been building out big, centralized robot-powered customer fulfillment centers (CFCs) across the U.S. for same- and next-day delivery of e-commerce orders.
But this week Kroger announced it was shrinking things down and speeding things up at its forthcoming CFCs in South Florida. The two new South Florida facilities will offer 10,000 items available for 30 minute delivery.
Kroger, it seems, just got Gopuffed.
I’m being a little facetious, but one has to wonder if a year’s worth of headlines and investments in upstart speedy grocers like Gopuff and Gorillas — which offer half hour (or less) delivery — had an impact on Kroger.
In addition to building out its own micro-CFCs, perhaps an interesting path for Kroger would be to put some money into a speedy grocer like Food Rocket in San Francisco. Food Rocket has said it eventually wants to open up its platform for other retailers to offer speedy delivery, why not jumpstart that plan and ask Kroger for some cash?
I’m just spitballin’ here, but after a white hot first six months of the year, the investment frothiness around speedy grocers has certainly flattened. The funding headlines for such services have basically fallen off a cliff. And Germany-based Gorillas, which raised more than a billion dollars, paused its U.S. expansion plans and laid people off to focus on its NYC operations.
Food Rocket, which has only raised $2 million, has already eased up on strict 10 - 15 minute delivery as it now advertises a longer 10 - 30 minute delivery window. According to its website, Food Rocket has also moved away from delivery-only stores and now offers in-person shopping. It seems like Food Rocket appears to be going through startup pains and trying to change things up (I haven’t spoken directly with the company lately).
Kroger could probably take advantage of this state of flux and experiment with speedy grocery delivery using Food Rocket’s infrastructure for pretty cheap. This wouldn’t involve robots immediately, but Kroger could certainly apply what it learned about speedy grocery to future robot-powered micro CFCs.
These 12 robots could help hotels raise their revenues
Fun Fact: There are nearly 56,000 hotel properties just in the U.S.
Funner Fact: Guests spend $550 million at hotels and local businesses during their stays.
But I think hotels are actually leaving money on the table by not exploring robotics more aggressively. Install a robot barista in a lobby and BOOM! You’ve got ‘round the clock beverage service. Bring on an indoor delivery robot and BOOM! You’ve got contactless room service. Add smart fridges to every floor and BOOM! Fresh food without guests needing to get in the elevator.
There is definite market / product fit between robots and hotels. If you run a hotel or resort, you should definitely be looking into food robotics and automation — and you should definitely start with this handy-dandy list of robot startups I made for you.
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Valqari patents platform to allow drone delivery to your window
OK. So your apartment or condo building doesn’t have its own automated store and mini-fleet of delivery robots. Perhaps it can offer a different high-tech perk, thanks to Valqari.
Valqari makes smart lockers for drone deliveries. Drones land on a Valqari platform and drop off their payload, which gets stored inside a secure locker. Customers pick up their goods by unlocking Valqari with a mobile app.
Valqari has been granted three patents in the U.S., including one for a platform that can be affixed to a window. Think: a cross between a teeny-tiny helipad and one of those external air conditioning units.
For buildings that don’t want hundreds of these platforms dotting their facades, one Valqari unit can be used by multiple residents.
The bigger point here is that building managers might like these drone drop-offs as an alternative to a steady stream of delivery drivers parking in front of the building and getting buzzed in. Who knows, perhaps the drone drop could drop off a burrito into a robot that runs it up to your room.
Read the full story for more on Valqari’s portfolio of patents and its ambitions to put a drone delivery box at the end of every driveway.
Podcast Blast! Karakuri's CEO Barney Wragg on labor, Ocado and dispensing down to the gram
This week’s podcast is with Barney Wragg, Founder and CEO of Karakuri, which makes the Semblr all-in-one canteen robot.
Karakuri recently installed its first Semblr for public use at Ocado’s (which invested in Karakuri) headquarters in England. I took that opportunity to catch up with Wragg to talk about:
The specific labor issues Semblr solves
How Semblr fights food waste
How much it will cost to get your own Semblr ‘bot
With their versatile menus, capacity to serve different day parts, and ability to sequester different food allergens, I’m a big believer in canteen robots like Semblr and think they could actually work quite well in places like schools. So I’m excited to see them come to market and used in the real world.
Last week’s podcast with Farmwise CEO Sebastien Boyer is now available to everyone. So give that a listen too!
Future Acres carries home $1.6M in equity crowdfunding
Future Acres, which makes a multi-purpose, self-driving vehicle for farms, closed its equity crowdfunding campaign last week, raising more than $1.6 million.
What’s interesting about Future Acres fundraise is the contrast with Burro, which also makes an autonomous ag tech vehicle, but went the traditional VC route. Burro recently raised $10.9 million, which is a lot more than $1.6 million — but also comes with the traditional VC pressures to scale.
It’s all about time vs. money. Will Burro’s big cash allow it to become entrenched with customers faster? Or will Future Acres benefit from not having outside pressures as its making its go-to market decisions?
I always feel like, somebody’s WATCHing me… wash my hands
After what we went through last year, we’ve all gotten pretty good at washing our hands. Pretty good, however, isn’t always good enough. That’s where the Russian company Connectome (connect-ohm) and its Direktiva product come in.
Meant for food processing facilities and other places where clean hands are important, Direktiva uses a combination of cameras, computer vision and AI to monitor employee handwashing.
A piece of hardware with a camera built in is mounted above a washbasin and watches employees scrub up. The system uses the World Health Organization’s guidelines around amount of soap used and coverage area to determine if hands were properly washed. Once an employee’s are properly cleaned, they are allowed entrance into the facility.
Automating hygeine with HAL-like cameras seems kinda techno-creepy, but given what we all went through last year (not to mention other bacteria like E.Coli and Salmonella), maybe it’s necessary?
We’re up all night to get Lucki (to sing “Happy Birthday”)
Instead of a military draft, I believe every U.S. citizen should have to work both a restaurant and retail job. If everyone did that, well, there would be a lot more empathy to go around.
If you’ve worked at a restaurant, particularly a family restaurant, then you know the horror of customer birthdays. If you’re their server, you have to gather your co-workers along with some ridiculous free dessert and sing some jaunty version of the happy birthday song.
We talk about robots taking over manual and dangerous tasks, but what about the cringey ones?
Well, Orionstar’s server robot will do just that. The Lucki robot features an LED screen that can be programmed with fun messages like “Happy Birthday” and will use its “voice” to sing the song.
Oh. And it’ll serve 400 - 600 dishes a day. But taking over birthday duties, I’ll sing those praises anyday.
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That’s it for this week.
Stay cool. Have a great summer. Class of ‘90 rulez.