News Briefs


Giant Eagle Taps IoT to Boost Food Safety

giant eagle

Giant Eagle, Inc. has expanded its partnership with SmartSense by Digi, part of Digi International, provider of Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity solutions.

SmartSense protects Giant Eagle’s 215 pharmacies and provides digital task management for its 175 grocery properties and 92 convenience stores. With the latest phase of IoT deployment including 32,000 new SmartSense digital temperature monitoring devices to remotely, automatically and continuously monitor its critical food assets, Giant Eagle reaffirms its commitment to providing customers with the highest levels of food safety and quality.

“We have been continually impressed with SmartSense’s innovative and intelligent solutions, which have allowed us to strengthen our unwavering commitment to maintaining the highest levels of food safety for the communities we serve,” said Giant Eagle VP of risk and chief compliance officer, Vic Vercammen. “Specifically, capturing detailed data insights and prescriptive analytics via SmartSense’s advanced technologies will enhance our team members’ ability to monitor product freshness in real time.”

“We are proud to serve as an IoT partner for Giant Eagle,” says SmartSense president Guy Yehiav. “Our experience, easily solving compliance requirements of pharmacy and healthcare, empowers us to keep providing critical solutions for food safety and equipment optimization. With paper and manual checks a thing of the past, we help customers such as Giant Eagle advance their operations and move from physical logs to digital insights that inform their teams on the ground, with efficiency and effectiveness. We work with customers over the long-term—evolving and developing prescriptive analytics from our scalable systems that distill operational data into clear actions that improve safety, quality and sustainability.”

Founded in 1931, Giant Eagle is one of the nation’s largest food retailers and distributors, with approximately $10 billion in annual sales. Recognizing the competitive and cost-saving advantage of utilizing digital technology, its walk-ins, chillers and refrigerators across all applicable supermarkets now include the SmartSense system which, installing in minutes, combines wireless sensors, food probes, digital checklists and remote monitoring software and analytics tools. All features and functions are accessible via a single compliance monitoring dashboard and mobile app to give a holistic view of operations at every level. The results are actionable insights that drive quality control, employee productivity and food safety compliance.


Kroger Co Reimagining Shopping Experience with AI Applications

Kroger's store front

Nationwide grocer Kroger Co,. is looking to build out its shopping experience, leveraging AI in order to improve shipping logistics and expand freshness capabilities. 

In order to do so, the company has tapped NVIDIA, which will utilize digital twin simulations — virtual models that reflect store layouts and other operations — to build an AI lab and demonstration center at Kroger’s Cincinnati-based headquarters.

[Read more: Walmart, Kroger Choose Locations for New Fulfillment Facilities in 2022]

Kroger will be using several platforms — including NVIDIA DGX™ A100 systems, NVIDIA InfiniBand networking, and NVIDIA RTX™ workstations — in order to gain insights across the company’s 2,800 stores. 

Through this tech, Kroger can identify early indicators of deteriorating freshness using computer vision and analytics, leverage dynamic routing for last-mile delivery to bolster freshness efforts, and optimize store efficiency and processes with digital twin store simulation.

“Our collaboration with NVIDIA supports Kroger’s ‘Fresh for Everyone’ commitment,” said Wesley Rhodes, vice president of technology transformation and research and development at Kroger. “We look forward to learning more about how AI and data analytics will further our journey to provide our customers with anything, anytime, anywhere.”

Azita Martin, vice president and general manager of Retail at NVIDIA, said that by leveraging AI, shoppers gain a more personalized experience, both in physical stores and online. 

Several grocery brands have jumped on digital and sustainability initiatives in order to improve freshness and fortify the consumer experience. According to RIS News, more than half (54%) of grocers are increasing their YoY tech spend, focusing on advancing digital and mobile capabilities, analytics-driven decision making, personalized marketing, and click-and-connect.

[Related: Grocery Tech Trends Study 2021]

Walmart, for example, is investing in vertical farming, looking for new ways to deliver quality and freshness while reinforcing earth-friendly strategies. Last September, Albertson’s launched shoppable video experiences that allows consumers to engage with retailers in a short-form video ecosystem. 

A few years ago, Kroger announced it would be more strategic with its spending, cutting on some areas while continuing to focus on digitizing the shopping experience


Sephora Delivers Next Level Payment Experience

a store front at day

Sephora USA, Inc. has partnered with  FreedomPay to integrate FreedomPay’s data-driven commerce technology platform in Sephora’s 500-plus stores across the Americas. 

The partnership allows for a next-level mobile POS consumer experience for shoppers with FreedomPay. The new touchless capable payment system enables Sephora clients to have complete control over their checkout experience, giving consumers the option to pay via contactless payment methods and digital wallets all on their own device, including Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay.

“Now more than ever, it is critical for us at Sephora to be able to adapt to the quickly changing retail environment and that’s especially important at the point of sale,” said Sree Sreedhararaj, SVP and CTO at Sephora. “Our clients desire a seamless experience in every step of the shopping journey, and our partnership with FreedomPay allows us to maximize efficiencies and capabilities at checkout.”

“FreedomPay is proud to announce the agreement with Sephora, to provide a world class experience to its millions of customers across the Americas,” said Chris Kronenthal, president at FreedomPay. “Our suite of touchless commerce and data solutions will enable Sephora to provide customers a fast, frictionless, and innovative consumer experience.”



Chipotle Tests Autonomous AI Kitchen Assistant


Chipotle Mexican Grill will soon employ an autonomous kitchen assistant with artificial intelligence to make tortilla chips.

"We are always exploring opportunities to enhance our employee and guest experience. Our goal is to drive efficiencies through collaborative robotics that will enable Chipotle's crew members to focus on other tasks in the restaurant," said Curt Garner, chief technology officer, Chipotle.

Chipotle's culinary and technology teams called on MISO ROBOTICS to customize its latest robotic solution, named Chippy, to cook and freshly season Chipotle's tortilla chips.Chipotle's culinary team guided Miso in tailoring its technology to maintain the culinary integrity of the brand.

Leveraging artificial intelligence, Chippy is trained to replicate Chipotle's exact recipe – using corn masa flour, water and sunflower oil – to cook chips to perfection, season with a dusting of salt, and finish with a hint of fresh lime juice.  It was imperative that the technique remained the same.

"Everyone loves finding a chip with a little more salt or an extra hint of lime," said Nevielle Panthaky, VP of Culinary, Chipotle. "To ensure we didn't lose the humanity behind our culinary experience, we trained Chippy extensively to ensure the output mirrored our current product, delivering some subtle variations in flavor that our guests expect."

Chippy is currently being tested at the Chipotle Cultivate Center, Chipotle's innovation hub in Irvine, CA, and will be integrated into a Chipotle restaurant in Southern California later this year. The company is leveraging its stage-gate process to listen, test and learn from crew and guest feedback before deciding on a national implementation strategy.

"When Chipotle challenged us to see if our technology could meet the brand's high standards for culinary quality, we couldn't wait to flex our engineering and design muscles," said Mike Bell, CEO, Miso Robotics. "This partnership will allow us to move into new territory to help improve back-of-house functions and assist team members with their day-to-day responsibilities."  

An innovator in restaurant technology, Chipotle continues to invest in emerging solutions to support its growing digital business and reduce friction in its restaurants. The company believes technology deployed consistently and correctly can improve the human experience. Chipotle already leverages artificial intelligence with its concierge chat bot, Pepper. Pepper ensures guests have an exceptional experience on the Chipotle app and Chipotle customers can select from frequently asked questions or ask their own questions to get a response quickly. Chippy joins Pepper in Chipotle's artificial intelligence suite to improve Chipotle's overall guest and employee experience.


Zebra Technologies Expands Portfolio with Automation Firm Acquisition

Robotics being used in supply chain

Zebra Technologies is acquiring Matrox Imaging for $875 million, bringing into the fold automation and vision technology. Recent IT investments also include robotics and machine learning. 

[Related: Boosting Supply Chain Challenges Through Advanced Technologies: Up Close with Zebra Technologies' Guy Yehiav]

Matrox Imaging’s software development kits, smart cameras, 3D sensors, vision controllers, input/output cards, and frame grabbers are used to capture, inspect, assess, and record data from industrial vision systems in factory automation, electronics and pharmaceutical packaging, semiconductor inspection, and more. 

Anders Gustafsson, chief executive officer of Zebra Technologies, said the acquisition will enable them to meet evolving consumer needs across the automation journey, including production and the movement of goods and materials. 

According to the company, the purchase will expand Zebra’s recently launched fixed industrial scanning and machine vision portfolio and grow its focus in software, machine learning, and deep learning.

The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory approval and is expected to close in 2022. 



Google Launches Last Mile Fleet Solution and Cloud Fleet Routing API


Google has launched Last Mile Fleet Solution from Google Maps Platform and Cloud Fleet Routing API from Google Cloud—two new solutions to help fleet operators improve delivery success and optimize fleet performance. 

The pandemic has accelerated ecommerce adoption and strained supply chains, while consumer expectations around delivery speed and visibility have reached an all-time high. At the same time, last-mile delivery is estimated to make up more than half of total shipping costs. This means last-mile fleet operators have to work harder to create better consumer experiences and improve their operations. Last Mile Fleet Solution and Cloud Fleet Routing API help fleet operators address these challenges through an integrated suite of mapping, routing, and analytics capabilities.  

Cloud Fleet Routing API focuses on the route planning phase of delivery and allows operators to perform advanced fleet-wide optimization, enabling them to determine the allocation of packages to delivery vans and the sequencing of the delivery tasks. Natively integrated with Google Maps routes data, Cloud Fleet Routing API can solve simple route planning requests in near-real-time, and scale to the most demanding of workloads with parallelized request batching. Across this spectrum, customers can specify a variety of constraints, such as time windows, package weights, and vehicle capacities. Cloud Fleet Routing runs on the cleanest cloud in the industryand can help carriers meet sustainability targets by reducing distance traveled, number of delivery vans, and CO2 output from computing.

Last Mile Fleet Solution focuses on delivery execution and allows fleet operators to optimize across every stage of the last-mile delivery journey, from ecommerce order to doorstep delivery. The solution also helps businesses create exceptional delivery experiences for consumers and provides drivers the tools they need to perform at their best when completing tasks throughout the day. It builds on the On-demand Rides & Deliveries mobility solution from Google Maps Platform, which is already used by leading ride-hailing and on-demand delivery operators around the world. 

When implemented together, Last Mile Fleet Solution and Cloud Fleet Routing API allows businesses to optimize across every stage of the last-mile delivery journey, with features such as: 

  • Address capture to help obtain an accurate address and location for each pickup or delivery. 

  • Route optimization to help ensure drivers are provided with routes that optimize around the fleet's constraints—including delivery time windows—and adapt based on real-time traffic.

  • Driver routing & navigation to deliver a seamless driver experience and improve route compliance with in-app navigation powered by Google Maps.

  • Shipment tracking to keep consumers updated with live, day-of shipment tracking, including up-to-date location and arrival times of customer packages. 

  • Fleet performance to enable visibility into real-time route progress and shipment insights for operations teams.

“The pandemic further accelerated both e-commerce and the number of deliveries, which were already growing rapidly. The increased strain on delivery networks, plus many other factors like driver shortages, poor address data, factory closures, and an increase in fuel prices have impacted delivery time and success,” said Hans Thalbauer, managing director, Global Supply Chain & Logistics Industries, Google Cloud. “With Google Maps Platform’s Last Mile Fleet Solution and Cloud Fleet Routing API, we’re making it easier for delivery fleet operators to address these issues and create seamless experiences for consumers, drivers, and fleet managers.” 

To learn more about Last Mile Fleet Solution and Cloud Fleet Routing API, register for an upcoming Google Cloud Spotlight event, “Shining a light on supply chain and logistics.”