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Day: February 3, 2017

Ocado showcases robotic arm for grocery picking

World’s largest online-only grocery retailer working with prestigious universities in Europe to develop innovative robotic solutions

Today Ocado Technology is announcing a major development in the pursuit of creating robotic grocery picking solutions for Ocado’s highly-automated warehouses. The Ocado Technology robotics team has created a robotic arm capable of safely grasping a wide variety of products, including many from Ocado’s current range which includes over 48,000 hypermarket items.

The robotic arm comes as a result of the close collaboration between Ocado Technology and the Technische Universität Berlin (TUB), and represents an integral part of the SoMa project – a European Union-funded, Horizon 2020 programme for research and innovation in the field of humanoid robotics.

The SoMa project also includes researchers, academics and scientists from the University of Pisa, the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT), Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR, the German aerospace agency), the Institute of Science and Technology Austria, and Disney Research Zürich.

“Ocado and its academic partners are developing some of the most innovative technologies in the field of robotics. With SoMa, we are pursuing a new direction for robotic grasping by developing robot hands that can safely pick easily damageable items such as fruits and vegetables. The RBO Hand 2 designed by the Technische Universität Berlin offers a versatile, cost-effective and safe solution for robotic grasping and manipulation that integrates very well with Ocado’s highly-automated warehouse retail solutions.” – Dr. Graham Deacon, robotics research team leader at Ocado Technology

To avoid damaging sensitive and unpredictably shaped grocery items, the robotic arm uses the principle of environmental constraint exploitation to establish a carefully orchestrated interaction between the hand, the object being grasped, and the environment surrounding the respective item.

The SoMa project is part of a continuum of robotics and engineering R&D projects in development at Ocado. In December 2016, Ocado commenced operations from its highly automated Andover warehouse which includes hundreds of robots swarming on a grid the size of several football pitches. In addition, Ocado Technology is a coordinator of the SecondHands project, another Horizon 2020-funded programme that aims to design a collaborative robot that can learn from and offer assistance to warehouse maintenance technicians in a proactive manner.

For more information about the SoMa robotic arm, please visit the links below:
SoMa robot arm picking an apple (video)
Soma robot arm picking a bag of limes (video)
About Ocado Technology
Ocado Technology is a division of Ocado developing world-class systems and solutions in the areas of robotics, machine learning, simulation, data science, forecasting and routing, inference engines, big data, real-time control, and more. The fusion between the Ocado retail and Ocado Technology divisions creates a virtuous circle of innovation that leads to disruptive thinking. For more information about Ocado Technology, visit


About Ocado
Established in 2000, Ocado is a UK-based company admitted to trading on the London Stock Exchange (OCDO), and is the world’s largest dedicated online grocery retailer, operating its own grocery and general merchandise retail businesses under the and other specialist shop banners. For more information about the Ocado Group, visit

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How This Tech-Savvy Van Could Save Businesses a Ton of Money

You know better than anyone that running a business is costly in terms of money and time. Naturally, anything that could save you either one of those things — even just a little bit — is a good investment.

Well, you’ll be pleased to know Ford Motor Co. is working directly with Transport for London — the city’s transit agency — to test hybrid prototypes. They are hybrid Transit Custom vans running on electric, also known as plug-in hybrid or PHEV.

The first question you’ll probably ask is why is this such a big deal? The next, what impact does this have on me and my business?

How Ford’s Hybrid Commercial Vans Will Save Money

Ford’s vans will run on electric power for a vast majority of their daily commutes. This will save a significant amount of money — thanks to lowered fuel costs — and it will also “contribute to cleaner air targets while boosting operator productivity in urban conditions,” says Ford.

The company will be distributing 20 of their Transit Custom commercial vans to businesses across London, which will take place over a 12-month trial. Both Ford, and the City of London are looking to “explore” how the vans will contribute.

The project was funded by nearly five million pounds of UK government money. The aim is to reduce carbon emissions and develop “next generation technology that will make a […] difference [in] people’s lives,” according to the UK’s Minister of State for climate change and industry, Nick Hurd.

So, we know it’s going to save a ton of money, and that it’s great for the environment. But how does any of this have an effect on you and your business?

If the program is a success, it means we will likely see these vehicles rolled out elsewhere. Not to mention, Ford is clearly not the only auto manufacturer working on hybrid or electric vehicles. Mercedes-Benz is also looking at launching an electric Sprinter van, which would have the option of an electric powertrain.

Eventually, this will translate to businesses being able to outfit their entire fleets with electric and hybrid vehicles. Imagine the kind of cost savings that would contribute to your business. How much do you currently spend on your conventional vans and transport fleet?

When you consider what your traditional transit van looks like, it’s evident they’re one of the most efficient ways to transport goods and products for your business. They’re used by industries that range from party planning to carpet cleaning and everything in between. While it’ll be interesting to see the benefits eco-friendly vans have for such businesses, current pricing models for alternative energy vehicles mean we might be waiting a few years before companies start to adopt them.

Is That It?

The new hybrid van is just one of 13 advanced models Ford is promising to introduce to market by 2020. All of this is part of their $4.5 billion “electrification” effort.

As no stranger to the business world, we don’t need to tell you that the transit can is one of the most popular commercial vehicles across a wide swath of countries, including the US, Europe, China and more. If Ford can effectively prove their new hybrid vans are worth investing in — and it certainly seems like they are — we could be on track to phase out the conventional fleet by the end of the decade.

That will bring a sweeping bout of cost savings and green — environmental — benefits for the world.

Get excited, folks — the future is here. You may soon be swapping out your fleet for something more efficient and cost-friendly. Who knows? Within the next couple of decades, conventional fossil fuels may become a thing of the past — at least when it comes to transportation.

One can only hope.

Image by Simon Caspersen

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