Meet CommonSense Robotics, an Israel-based startup focused on optimizing e-commerce warehouses with cute little robots and a comprehensive software solution. We talked with the startup last month and could even order a few items in its test fulfillment center.
The most visual part of the system is the tiny little robots that move on the ground. But this isn’t the smart part of the system. CommonSense Robotics has basically turned warehouses into a giant game of Tetris combined with Battleship.
The ground is defined as a grid of boxes that are roughly the size of a robot. The robot reads the coordinates of the box using a good old camera and QR codes on stickers. They’re then connected to the network using Wi-Fi.
But the actual brain of the service is located in a central computer that coordinates all the robots at once. At all times, the server knows the position of all the robots and can optimize the route of all the devices.
In order to avoid traffic jams in case of a technical failure, each robot can navigate below the shelves because they’re low profile — the warehouse is an open field instead of a system of roads. And robots can go back to charging stations to recharge their batteries without any human intervention.
Navigating around a warehouse is one thing, but CommonSense Robotics has also developed a sophisticated robot to pick up items from the shelves. These bigger robots can pull standard-sized boxes from the shelves and hand them to the tiny robots.
This way, human operators can stay at their scanning station and pick up objects without having to walk multiple miles per day. If somebody orders and oversized item, employees can also pick them up from the special oversized area.
Fulfillment centers as a service
CommonSense Robotics is starting with a specific vertical — grocery retailers in urban areas. The startup doesn’t want to partner with Amazon or Walmart to optimize their gigantic warehouses. Instead, CommonSense Robotics thinks e-commerce is going to be local and fragmented.
Let’s say you’re a popular grocery retailer in Israel. While you don’t have the same technological advantage as e-commerce giants, CommonSense Robotics can help you get started.
The startup operates micro-fulfillment centers for you. As a customer, you pay for a service, and you let CommonSense Robotics take care of the rest. The startup will install its automated system and manage the fulfillment center for you.
Ideally, you could imagine a city with multiple CommonSense Robotics fulfillment centers. Orders could be fulfilled within a few minutes, and a local delivery person could pick up the goods for the last mile delivery. This would greatly speed up grocery deliveries while keeping costs down.
The company is opening up its first fulfillment center in Tel Aviv and competes with other startups, such as Exotec Solutions. The company already plans to open more facilities in Europe and the U.S.