New Investment Helps Enterprises Navigate Brave New World with Smart Data Capture
| News | by Samuel Mueller, CEO and Co-founder
In a world redefined by the pandemic, workers, customers and businesses have permanently changed the way they navigate and experience the workplace. Interacting contactlessly and intelligently with the physical environment from personal, smart devices is part of the seachange. Radically revised expectations show up in the ‘Great Resignation’ with employees leaving jobs as they re-evaluate their priorities, or the consumer shift to the convenience of omnichannel retail. Organizations that can’t adapt to new behaviors and expectations face an existential threat.
At Scandit, we combine computer vision, machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) running on smart devices to grant superpowers to humans so they can work and consume information in novel, intuitive ways. Coupling smart devices and computer vision technology, which captures barcodes, text and objects, is the key combination that confers flawless decision-making, instantly upskilling workers and enriching services. It’s a capability organizations are adopting in the workplace and across supplier ecosystems to become more resilient, innovative and more human, a win-win in changing times. It’s called smart data capture.
As the leader in smart data capture, I am incredibly excited to announce that we have secured $150m Series D funding led by Warburg Pincus, with strong participation from our existing investors. This new funding will enable us to build and advance on how we are supporting our global customer base to rapidly reinvent their workforces, re-think their customer-supplier processes and core workflows.
As Europe’s newest unicorn, with a valuation in excess of $1bn, we intend to develop our technology on diverse devices and bring innovative capabilities to humans in all corners of the globe. Thanks to the new funding, Scandit’s technology superpowers will reach more individuals and businesses, making experiences for workers, consumers and citizens increasingly efficient, sustainable and enjoyable. Whether a parent, patient, shopper or worker, everyone can benefit from being equipped to make decisions quicker, with better insights, shortcutting tedious processes — and get on with the things that matter to them.
Superpowered humans and enterprises
We’ve long discovered – and enterprises agree – that the smartphone in our pocket is a convenient platform for deploying computer vision to pay for purchases or sign for parcels. Increasingly, we see and enable the technology being teamed with robots and wearables, making it easier to capture barcodes and verify identities or approve stock on an industrial scale. Whichever way it’s deployed, mobile computer vision brings efficiency, scale and automation to organizations, solving labor and skill shortages.
One of Japan’s largest logistics companies, Yamato, is using the superpowers of Scandit Smart Data Capture to achieve new levels of care, accuracy, speed and precision in its deliveries. Crucially, its e-commerce delivery business can scale fast and upskill new workers from the phone in their pocket, no longer having to rely on driver intuition and experience. Drivers are trained and onboarded quickly, and receive guidance through augmented reality (AR) for sorting and loading. It’s a way of doing things that’s low on stress for the driver and priceless for the customer at home, waiting to receive the right parcel, on time.
The value of supplementing the skills and experience of workers was proven emphatically during Covid-19 by the NHS in the UK and other national health organizations. Our Smart Data Capture platform continues to enable volunteers and previously the military to carry out mass testing of the population, providing a means to scale life-saving interventions during the global pandemic. Delivering skills and capacity in smart new ways makes sense during a crisis or high demand, and beyond as the human experience moves centre stage in post-pandemic business models.
Surmounting the great skills shortage
Staffing and skills shortages have been a headache for enterprises in all sectors for decades, and now the pain has been exacerbated by the pandemic. July 2021 saw the highest ever share of US employers with unfilled positions, according to HR consultants, Korn Ferry, while in Germany, Europe’s largest economy, over a third of companies lack skilled workers, the ifo Institute reports.
As workers quit their jobs in search of a better work/life balance or a digital experience that supports their career aspirations, the ability to rapidly attract, scale, upskill and retain a mobile workforce becomes an essential capability. Labor shortages, the rise of the gig economy, and a younger generation of workers who wish to be incentivized and empowered by technology together pose a major challenge to business leaders.
Augmenting staff with smart data capture solutions helps organizations cope with post-pandemic churn and meet fluctuating demand in a world where shocks are the new normal. Organizations can hire inexperienced staff, equip them with computer vision enabled-smartphones and not only maintain but also improve productivity and quality assurance. For workers in retail and the last mile, smart data capture takes the toil out of repetitive tasks and means they enjoy a more rewarding relationship with customers, as they’re freed up to fulfill higher-value services.
Recreating brand loyalty
The pandemic ushered in an unprecedented level of retail channel hopping and ensuing disruption to brand loyalty. Significantly, 75 percent of consumers tried new shopping behaviors in search of convenience and value, and a further 39 percent — mainly Gen Z and millennials – deserted trusted brands, according to McKinsey. But there’s an alternative to the so-called fickle consumer — and that’s to embrace the brave new world of blended, immersive retail happening in brick-and-mortar stores.
Smart data capture has the power to accentuate the human touch and make the in-store customer feel like a VIP, a winning proposition for fashion, beauty and other luxury retailers. Store assistants can woo customers by sharing information contained in AR overlays, called up by the simple scan of a product. Alternatively, UK retailer Nisa has shown how customers can instantly access big brand discounts in-store through the use of AR on their own smartphones. In a three month pilot across a few stores, over 32,000 redemptions were made with an 81% repeat redemption rate proving of value to all parties.
And we’ve seen in-store shopping reimagined and reinvigorated by smart data capture in other ways that create a frictionless experience by blending the online and offline. Sporting goods retailer, Decathlon, provides customers at its Singapore branches with the option to self checkout or order items not stocked in-store using a Scandit powered-app. Designed to minimize the branch’s expensive real-estate footprint by reducing inventory, the app increases product visibility to customers enabling them to check out quickly to ensure they catch their next train, or without the disappointment of leaving empty handed knowing a delivery is on its way. And it’s proving successful with over a 90% customer satisfaction rating and downloaded by over 200,000 users, who drive ~10% of digital purchasing through the mobile app.
Automating routine tasks and operations
For lower-margin businesses in retail or elsewhere, automating processes using robots and autonomous devices can add precious percentage points to profitability. McKinsey notes that delegating routine tasks to robots adds 2-4 per cent to the bottom line — and keeps store assistants happy. ShelfView, our new smart data capture and analytics technology for retailers makes shelves visible in near real-time via smartphones or autonomous devices. Its myriad benefits include: keeping store inventory optimized and accurate, boosting store assistants’ efficiency and happiness, improving revenues and reducing employee churn.
Helpfully, our technology also integrates with autonomous devices like existing floor scrubbers, which simultaneously scan and capture stock locations as they move about the store which saves up to 2.5 hours of store associate time a day, per location. It’s a no-brainer way to scan up to 40,000 SKUs per day, gaining real-time visibility of stock quantity and locations, and another short step to marry the data with inventory systems. Grocers can plan accurate, daily restocks and optimize pick paths when fulfilling online orders, essential additions in a world of in-store order fulfillment that complement the traditional, physical store.
Making supply chains and last mile sustainable
The last mile of delivery poses twin challenges of sustaining a transparent and productive supply chain, plus the final leg contains multiple customer touchpoints and is susceptible to shocks like Covid-19: during the pandemic, e-commerce soared with DHL Express reporting 2020 peak volumes 50% higher than the previous year. Deploying smart data capture by equipping staff with smartphones to process physical objects makes sense anywhere along the supply chain, especially in low margin sectors.
Using personal smartphones hits the sustainability sweet spot, too, with a bring your own device (BYOD) model offering the opportunity to consolidate hardware while being efficient, safe and contactless. Pick-up and drop-off (PUDO) is an evolving piece of the sustainability story for suppliers and customers alike. Locations can be company field offices, third-party partner locations, such as gas stations, convenience stores or storage lockers. Smart devices running computer vision software allow post-and-parcel enterprises to effectively offer PUDO options in addition to direct delivery.
Manufacturers reinvent themselves
A swathe of sectors have emerged reinvigorated from the pandemic by the use of AI-enabled smart devices to augment staff who interact with physical objects. Now people who work in manufacturing, the poor relation when it comes to automation, can play catch-up by using smart data capture. Manufacturers can easily and affordably connect machines, products, people and processes using smartphones, autonomous devices and wearables, making work more interesting and less arduous for those on the factory floor.
The convergence of technologies like 5G, AI, AR and smart devices, gives manufacturers a sweet spot of opportunity to digitize operations simply with a mobile app. Tracking products and parts and capturing data in real-time from supply chain to assembly to the field, is easily achievable with the right technology. Similarly, workers, equipped with eyewear and AR overlays, can be guided to perform multiple tasks along a factory belt, simultaneously increasing job satisfaction, productivity and the overall agility of the factory.
We’re entering a purple patch for smart data capture as workers, customers and businesses are seeing their jobs, customer experience and productivity transformed. Computer vision-enabled mobile apps and smart devices are conferring superpowers that speed up operations and boost profitability for enterprises, and makes jobs more rewarding for workers. With this latest round of funding, I look forward to seeing the new value our innovation will extend to more enterprises across the world particularly through the use of autonomous devices and augmenting workers further through increased AI/ML on the edge.