Many companies have begun adopting the use of robots in warehouses, and Amazon is planning to use AI-powered technology to retire the barcode. As handy as robots can be, robotic arms apparently have trouble locating and reading barcodes on oddly shaped products. As a result, Amazon has decided to retire the barcode altogether.
The company has developed a camera system, trained via pictures of items in the Amazon warehouses, that can monitor items flowing one-by-one down conveyor belts to make sure they match their images. Amazon’s AI experts began by building up a library of images of products, and the cameras continuously capture new images of items to train the model. The goal is to eventually combine the technology with robots that identify items while picking them up and turning them around according to Amazon’s AI team.
The system eliminates the issue of incorrect items coming down the line to be sent to customers. Though the issue is infrequent, warehouses process hundreds of thousands of items per day, and just one mistake can result in significant slowdowns.
Nontas Antonakas, an applied science manager in Amazon’s computer vision group in Berlin said, “Solving this problem, so robots can pick up items and process them without needing to find and scan a barcode, is fundamental. It will help us get packages to customers more quickly and accurately.”
Though the plan is to eventually replace barcodes, the computer-vision algorithm won’t be getting rid of the barcode anytime soon. The system is currently only in use in Spain and Germany, though the company plans to share the technology across all of its businesses. Referred to as multi-modal identification, the system is already speeding up the time it takes to process packaging in Barcelona and Hamburg, according to Amazon.
The algorithm is off to a promising start, with an accuracy rate between 75 percent and 80 percent when first used. The accuracy rate is now at 99 percent, with only a minor hiccup with being unable to distinguish between two colors that has since been resolved. The AI team at Amazon expect fine-tuning the system to assess products that are being handled by people to be a challenge, and the ultimate goal is to have robots handle the products instead.
Implementing AI into processing has become more common, as many companies are beginning to use the technology to enhance processing rates. However, AI might be the key for companies like Amazon, but other companies have more complex processing systems that AI technology isn’t quite reliable enough to perform. For example, mobile device processing at disposition facilities like HOBI involve data erasure, battery safety procedures and repair and refurbishment services.
Robots can do many things, and AI is rising in popularity, but it may take some time before it will be ready for the ITAD industry.
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