Monday, July 15, 2024

Amazon’s Industrial Innovation Fund Expands Focus to Transportation Tech

Amazon’s industrial innovation fund is evolving to include transportation technologies in its investment categories. 

The Amazon Industrial Innovation Fund, which launched in April 2022, is a $1 billion venture investment program supporting emerging technology companies. The fund focuses on supporting innovative startups in transportation, and will now include solutions such as autonomous vehicles and last-mile technologies. 

The fund’s purpose is to support advances in warehouse automation and supply chain innovation, with a specific emphasis now on artificial intelligence and machine learning. 

Amazon’s Evolving Investment Strategy

Recent investments include Rightbot, a company working on automating container unloading, and Instock, which has created a robotic storage and retrieval system for efficient inventory management.

“Technology will keep playing a significant and ever-increasing role in fulfillment centers, and we will see more and more technology adoption throughout our network, including in middle and last-mile delivery, which will help us get orders to customers even faster,” said Franziska Bossart, director, Industrial Innovation Fund at Amazon, in a recent blog post

Citing recent examples of the fund’s investments, Bossart shouts out Agility Robotics’ bipendal robot, Digit, which will be used for the repetitive task of picking up and moving empty tote bags once inventory has been emptied.  

Bossart also mentioned the Sequoia system, which integrates multiple robot systems to containerize inventory. The hope is that eventually, this technology will allow associates to identify and store inventory at fulfillment centers up to 75% faster than they can currently, Bossart said. 

Recent Investments and Tech Advances

“I believe in 2024, we’ll see more widespread use of these intelligent systems. The groundwork for this technology has been in development for decades, but now we’re seeing many pieces coming together to further drive innovation. Advances in perception, AI, manipulation, and control are helping us automate a broader range of tasks,” Bossart added. 

Amazon’s interest in robots is no secret but has amped up of late, particularly in the supply chain and fulfillment space. 

In a recent blog by Scott Dresser, VP of Amazon Robotics, the retailer stated that company data shows in 2022 recordable incident rates and lost-time incident rates were lower at Amazon Robotics sites than non-robotics sites. 

Late last year, the company piloted its latest mobile robot, Titan, a heavy-lifting robot designed to work primarily with larger items like household appliances, gardening equipment, or pallets of pet food. 

This article also appears on RIS News, a sister site of CGT. 


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