RoboShop, an autonomous robot that performs inventories and locates objects by radio frequency


(Original UPF news available here)

urrently, inventories are performed manually using bar codes, which encode the reference, but do not differentiate between different objects with the same reference. Bar codes require manual inventories, with a high cost and error margin. An average store usually needs a team of 5 to 10 people at the weekend, and the result has a reliability of around 95%, and does not include information on location beyond the section of the store.

To solve this situation, many chains, en masse, have already adopted radio frequency identification technology (RFID), but still employing manual readers. RFID technology is a wireless technology that allows identifying certain objects. It consists of a reader, one or more electronic tags, and a final return information system. However, the degree of reliability of the inventory greatly depends on the experience and motivation of the operator. Item information is captured (each object has a different code), but not its location beyond the section of the store.

RoboShop is a project coordinated by technology company Keonn and enjoys the participation of Rafael Pous, principal investigator of the Ubiquitous Computing Applications Laboratory (UbiCA Lab) of the Department of Information and Communication Technologies (DTIC) at UPF, which began in June and aims, in the next three years, to design a “scanner robot” that identifies and locates all the objects of a store, including their position on three axes to maximize inventory reliability and, in turn, optimize the precision with which the position of each object is calculated.

As Rafael Pous points out: “The system will be able to move independently and systematically around the store, avoiding unforeseen obstacles, and performing an inventory of all products. This inventory includes the location in three dimensions of these products with an accuracy equal to or less than 50 cm and, therefore, contained within a person’s field of vision”.

One initial use of this device is to make an inventory of the store for operating purposes, as a replacement for manual inventories. The second use is to capture the information on the location of all objects of the store as a basis for developing applications of interaction based on the paradigm of the Internet of Things, such as fitting rooms or interactive mirrors.

RoboShop coordinates a robotic base with autonomous navigation and an RFID system

The proposed technological solution consists of combining a robotic base with autonomous navigation and a radio frequency identification system. Keonn is responsible for the development of the RFID system that uses RFID readers and antennas of its own design and manufacture, as well as its own location algorithms and mechanical developments and the design and manufacture of electronic equipment.

UPF is responsible for the communication between the RFID system and the robotic base, both insofar as software and hardware. This includes the installation of all RFID subsystems designed and manufactured by Keonn on the robotic base (readers, multiplexers, antennas, etc.) but, above all, the development of the RFID system navigation and control software, as well as the integration between the two.

RoboShop is funded by the National Programme for Research Aimed at the Challenges of Society (Retos) in the framework of the MINECO Spanish National Plan for Scientific and Technical Research and Innovation 2017-2020, for “not-for-profit public or private entities with proven capacity and competence to perform R&D projects involving a meaningful breakthrough of knowledge”.