“Knowledge4Retail” consortium with participation of the DFKI receives funding in AI innovation competition

Does the digitalisation offer new paths out of the dead end of stationary retail? Yes, says the “Knowledge4Retail” consortium that received a funding of close to 13 million Euros on 19 September 2019 as part of the innovation competition "Artificial Intelligence as a Driver of Economically Relevant Ecosystems" of the German Federal Ministry for Economy and Energy (BMWi). The project association, in which the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) is participating, convinced the jury with its plans for the implementation of artificial intelligence in stationary retail. Together with the cooperating research institutes and retail companies, the project aims at combining the advantages of the digital and stationary world, supporting the complex processes of retail with the help of AI.

The Innovative Retail Laboratory (IRL) of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence at Globus SB-Warenhaus in St. Wendel. Photo: DFKI GmbH, Oliver Dietze

Online-shopping is still on the rise. Despite that, long-discussed question whether stationary retail has a future is answered by the project "Knowledge4Retail" (K4R) with a clear “Yes”. From the point of view of the project partners, including the Robotics Innovation Center and the Innovative Retail Laboratory of the DFKI, this future is based upon the connection between the analogue and digital world. However, few medium-sized companies possess the resources and the knowledge to make this connection. As a reaction to this, the project "K4R" plans on creating an open-access platform that offers complex AI technologies for planning procedures as well as the deployment of robotics in stores.

Such developments are highly important for stationary retail, which plays an essential role for the labour market and the preservation of lively inner cities. Apart from the competitiveness in comparison to major online retailers, its challenges also include sustainability, transport chains and climate protection. The project “Knowledge4Retail” furthermore asks questions of availability and the intelligent usage of data while simultaneously respecting data protection. Four areas of action for which the platform wants to offer solutions were defined.

Use-Cases for the implementation of the K4R platform in retail

Intelligent intralogistics are able to optimize the unloading and organization of goods in a store. Using semantic digital twins of a store and exact location and inventory data of all articles, a shipment can for instance arrive in the perfect logistical arrangement. By registering all products, the system – as envisioned by the project partners – can answer questions of clients, employees and managers at all times. A further field of optimization is the store arrangement: Based on factors such as the size, the arrangement, the client structure and the competitors, the K4R platform is meant to allow well-founded analysis. These analysis can be used for instance for the individual placement of products based on the costumer's needs.

In addition, the project “Knowledge4Retail” is working on the deployment of service robots that, working together with intelligent intralogistics and optimized stores, can effectively support the stationary retail. In order to relieve employees from monotonous tasks and give them more time for the consultation of customers, the robots are meant to help with the transportation of new goods and make the process of refilling the store more efficient. For this, they take advantage of the digital twins of the store as well as the digital inventory.

A further part of the project is an intelligent fridge which is able to autonomously recognize, administer and sell its inventory. During a pilot deployment, the fridge is supposed to demonstrate how the K4R platform can also be used for the area of automated autonomous retail where both the logistics and the vending are entirely automated.

A strong consortium for the sustainable support of retail

“One of the main aims of the AI innovation competition of the BMWi is to support the transfer from research to pratice in order to advance innovative solutions with a major economical significance. With our consortium of partners from the fields of research, technology and retail, we have created ideal conditions for the sustainable support of the digitalisation in the stationary retail in the upcoming years”, Andreas Wulfes, project leader of “Knowledge4Retail” of the consortium leader neusta GmbH, explains.

Apart from the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence and the project leader, team neusta GmbH, the consortium consists of the University of Bremen with its IAI, the Fraunhofer Society, the Technical University of Munich, the EHI Retail Institute, dmTECH, dm-drogerie markt, fortiss, Ubimax GmbH, Kaputra and Allgeier Enterprise Services.

Further information can be found at www.knowledge4retail.org.

DFKI Contact:
Dipl.-Ges.Wirt (FH) Niels Will
German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFK)
Robotics Innovation Center

+49 421 178 45 6660

DFKI Press Contact:
German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI)
Corporate Communications Bremen

+49 421 178 45 4180

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