Northwestern plans AI, robotics initiatives for retail
- Northwestern University is preparing to boost its investment in training, research and business partnerships in retail technology, as it announced last week it would launch a Retail AI Lab and Retail Robotics Initiative.
- The two programs will be led by the Retail Analytics Council, a four-year old partnership between the Pratt Retail Institute and Northwestern, which banded together to sponsor the first Retail Robotics & AI Conference in San Francisco this year.
- The Retail AI Lab’s main goals are to “undertake additional research projects” and raise awareness of careers in retail AI and analytics. Meanwhile, the Retail Robotics Initiative will focus on connecting robotics companies with retailers, publishing research and cultivating participation at its annual conference.
Robotics are quickly becoming an integral part of retail operations, helping move inventory faster, more accurately or with more visibility in an age of rising volumes and a need for greater order precision.
However, not all retailers are fully prepared to manage the technology. Although shelf-picking robots and self-guided bots are becoming more popular, warehouses remain largely behind the curve when it comes to emerging technology. A lack of talent, clear use cases or capital are among the biggest reasons behind this lag.
The two initiatives at Northwestern by the Retail Analytics Council seek to help fill this gap, bringing academia, retailers, investors and robotics companies together to both train the next generation of talent and develop pilot projects to clarify use cases.