5G Whiz: AT&T Works With Robotics Firm to Accelerate Retail Automation Beyond Wi-Fi

The robots will help retailers recognize out-of-stock, mispriced, or misplaced inventory, as well as potential store hazards.

Dallas-based AT&T Inc. is working with a Kentucky technology company to accelerate retail automation by using 5G-enabled autonomous robots.

The robots from Nicholasville, Kentucky-based Badger Technologies allow retailers to improve operations and customer experiences by identifying out-of-stock, mispriced, or misplaced inventory, in addition to recognizing potential store hazards, according to a statement.

While advanced mobile data collection systems are able to collect and share important data and images, they can be a burden on a store’s existing Wi-Fi network. Badger, which is a product division of the Florida-based manufacturing services company Jabil, is teaming up with AT&T to see how a 5G network could possibly fix this issue. 

AT&T Foundry tests robots’ 5G connectivity

AT&T Foundry in Plano is testing 5G connectivity with Badger’s robots in what the company calls a “multi-access edge computing environment,” or MEC, in an effort to enable uninterrupted, seamless network connectivity.

The testing’s goal is to show how using millimeter wave spectrum and edge computing through 5G could provide Badger Technologies and retailers with the lower latency—the delay before a transfer of data begins following an instruction for its transfer—and higher throughput—the rate at which data is processed—needed while running with other in-store network applications at the same time.

“5G is an important next step to helping ensure shared visibility across critical inventory, POS, and operational systems,” Tim Rowland, Badger Technologies’ CEO,  said in a statement. “Working with AT&T enables us to better support our retail customers by delivering information faster to increase store efficiencies, improve customer service and boost profits.”

AT&T said its MEC solutions could also make it possible for Badger to increase hyper-local data processing by offering a more private network connection than is usually associated with in-store Wi-Fi. 

5G, edge computing critical to retail’s digital transformation

Badger would have more control over what data travels beyond the walls of the store and what data stays inside in an effort to deal with the increasing issues of privacy and security among retailers.

“In-building cellular solutions, including 5G and edge computing, are critical drivers of digital transformation for retailers,” Mo Katibeh, chief marketing officer of AT&T Business, said. “These technologies will eventually equip robots with both the compute power and lower latency needed to increase revenue, improve the in-store experience, and elevate employees to better assist customers. Badger Technologies’ robots can help retailers make sure they have products in stock and in the right place, increasing customer satisfaction. That leads to increased revenue. That’s the power of data.”

This is just the latest partnership for AT&T, which recently announced an extensive, multiyear alliance with Microsoft. The multibillion-dollar deal is for a collaboration on emerging technologies, intended to improve people’s lives.

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