Ocado unveils innovative wireless warehouse-automation technology

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Online grocery retailer Ocado and product design firm Cambridge Consultants have developed a world first in wireless control systems that could shape the future of warehouse automation for the delivery sector.

The newly developed technology enables Ocado to control and coordinate the movements of hundreds of thousands of crates containing millions of grocery items, in real time and in parallel, meaning that the warehouse is home to the most densely packed mobile network in the world.

The technology enables the retailer to control 1,000 machines, communicating with them 10 times a second, all within an area the size of an Olympic swimming pool – maximizing warehouse efficiency. The innovative wireless solution is also scalable and could potentially handle 20 times the number of movements.

Tim Ensor, head of connected devices at Cambridge Consultants, said, “It was clear early on that no technology existed which would do what Ocado needed. That meant they needed to create a completely custom solution to achieve the required performance – but do so in a way that had a manageable risk profile and in the minimum amount of time. They engaged us to help them achieve this.

“Our expertise in 4G system development and familiarity with available platform technology allowed the joint Ocado and Cambridge Consultants team to develop a solution very quickly and with minimum risk. We created a system based on the principles of 4G but which can support 1,000 devices from a single base station – over 10 times more than is usually possible. At the same time, we needed to ensure it met the requirements of operating in license free spectrum. It is the first time this has all been done with 4G technology.”

As well as logistics, the system could potentially be used to control fleets of semi-autonomous vehicles at sites such as delivery centers, construction sites and airfields. Ocado is the intellectual property owner and has filed a number of patents for the new technology.

Mark Richardson, operations director at Ocado, said, “This revolutionary wireless development work from the Ocado and Cambridge Consultants collaboration is a crucial part of the advanced, proprietary automation which will power our next-generation warehouses and those of our partners.

“We set out to create a groundbreaking platform for online retailers – the Ocado Smart Platform – to push the boundaries of efficiency, modularity and scalability. Working closely with the Cambridge Consultants team has enabled us to make our ambitious vision a reality.”

To watch a video about the the new system click here.

February 12, 2016

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Helen has worked for UKi Media & Events for nearly a decade. She joined the company as assistant editor on Passenger Terminal World and since progressed to become editor of five publications, covering everything from aviation, logistics and e-commerce to meteorology. She has a love for travel and property and has redeveloped three houses in three years. When she’s not editing magazines, she’s running around after her two boys and their partner in crime, Pete the pug.

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