Proximus tests out drone-based stock checking

Belgian incumbent Proximus thinks 5G connected drones offer numerous benefits to warehouse managers when it comes to keeping tabs on inventory.

It has developed a test version of a solution that enables a drone to fly around inside a warehouse and use AI-based machine vision technology to identify various different products. The information it gathers is then sent via 5G to the warehouse manager, enabling them to keep track of stock levels in real time.

Proximus is working with India-based technology group Phoenix – which supplied the drone – and air filter maker Deltrian International. The solution was demonstrated at a scaled-down version of Deltrian’s warehouse that has been constructed at an aerial test site operated by a company called ID2Move. Proximus for its part provided private 5G network coverage while its AI and cybersecurity research unit, Proximus Ada, delivered the AI tech.

Real-time inventory tracking is nothing new. Companies typically use RFID tags or barcodes to scan items on their way in and out of the warehouse, with some systems offering a high degree of accuracy when it comes to a product’s precise location within said warehouse.

However, Proximus asserts that these solutions are far from perfect.

“It is very difficult to monitor stock levels in real time and optimise locations,” said Proximus in a press release.

Deltrian stocks a multitude of different products at its warehouses, Proximus said, and these are stored on pallets of different sizes, in boxes of all shapes and sizes, sometimes at the front, sometimes high up, and sometimes deep down. Identifying specific products by scanning the barcode can be challenging because barcodes are not always visible due to factors like orientation or damage, rendering them illegible by the scanner.

“As a result, Deltrian International employees often waste a lot of time locating and retrieving products, then checking that they correspond to the right part number and encoding the stock issue or receipt,” Proximus said.

Delegating such onerous tasks to autonomous connected drones can save both time and money for a company like Deltrian.

“The benefits of this solution are numerous,” Proximus claims.

“First and foremost, it will increase productivity thanks to better knowledge of the stock status of all items. It will also lead to increased storage space and greater stock reliability, as well as reduced aisle congestion,” the telco said. “In financial terms, too, the benefits are obvious, thanks, in particular, to a reduction in dormant stocks and a reduction in financial losses due to production stoppages caused by shortages of certain raw materials.”

Looking further ahead, the plan is to deploy the solution at Deltrian’s warehouses in the city of Fleurus, which boast a combined 15,000 square metres of capacity. After that, Proximus hopes to offer its drone-based stock-checking tech to other companies throughout Belgium.


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