The retail industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by security, supply chain optimization, and risk mitigation, and the growing importance of technologies such as cloud, artificial intelligence, robotics, and sensors. In the last three years alone, there have been over 156,000 patents filed and granted in the retail industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Internet of Things in retail: modular autonomous delivery bots. Buy the report here.

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However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilizing and reaching maturity.

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.

50+ innovations will shape the retail industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the retail industry using innovation intensity models built on over 115,000 patents, there are 50+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, automated self-service kiosks and in-store theft monitoring are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Robotic warehouse management, autonomous delivery vehicle navigation systems, and interactive vending kiosks are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are NFC product tagging and smart PoS systems, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for Internet of Things in the retail industry

Modular autonomous delivery bots is a key innovation area in Internet of Things

Modular autonomous delivery bots represent a delivery system employing modular devices capable of independent transportation of delivery items. These systems are equipped with autonomous features, enabling them to autonomously navigate, avoid obstacles, and carry out deliveries without human intervention. Furthermore, the modular design facilitates customization and easy replacement of components when needed.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 110+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established retail companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of modular autonomous delivery bots.

Key players in modular autonomous delivery bots – a disruptive innovation in the retail industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of applications identified for each patent. It broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators. 

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of countries each patent is registered in. It reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.

Patent volumes related to modular autonomous delivery bots

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Toyota Motor 206 Unlock Company Profile
Cox Enterprises 166 Unlock Company Profile
Walmart 136 Unlock Company Profile
Nuro 131 Unlock Company Profile
Didi Global 100 Unlock Company Profile
Alphabet 71 Unlock Company Profile
FedEx 53 Unlock Company Profile
Honda Motor 40 Unlock Company Profile
Zume 37 Unlock Company Profile
Ford Motor 35 Unlock Company Profile
Uber Technologies 27 Unlock Company Profile
LG 24 Unlock Company Profile
Denso 23 Unlock Company Profile
Panasonic 23 Unlock Company Profile
Flex 23 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Motor 21 Unlock Company Profile
Trax Technology Solutions 21 Unlock Company Profile
Kia 19 Unlock Company Profile
Sycamore Partners 19 Unlock Company Profile
Locus Robotics 17 Unlock Company Profile
Oshkosh 16 Unlock Company Profile
Ocado Group 16 Unlock Company Profile
Emerging Automotive 16 Unlock Company Profile
Lyft 15 Unlock Company Profile
Indigo Agriculture 15 Unlock Company Profile
Zhejiang Geely 15 Unlock Company Profile
Vengo 13 Unlock Company Profile
Grab 11 Unlock Company Profile
Conduent 11 Unlock Company Profile
Alibaba Group 11 Unlock Company Profile
Intel 10 Unlock Company Profile
Omnitracs 10 Unlock Company Profile
Sony Group 10 Unlock Company Profile
Baidu 9 Unlock Company Profile
Outerwall 9 Unlock Company Profile
Here 9 Unlock Company Profile
Samsung Group 9 Unlock Company Profile
iRobot 9 Unlock Company Profile
Intelligent Imaging Systems 8 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 8 Unlock Company Profile
Ilitch 8 Unlock Company Profile
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance 8 Unlock Company Profile
Siemens 7 Unlock Company Profile
General Motors 7 Unlock Company Profile
NEC 7 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Electric 7 Unlock Company Profile
Via Transportation 7 Unlock Company Profile
FedEx Services 7 Unlock Company Profile
Kapsch TrafficCom 6 Unlock Company Profile
Vulog 6 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Leading patent filers in the modular autonomous delivery bots include Toyota Motor, Cox Enterprises, Walmart, Nuro, and Didi Global. In 2022, Walmart initiated trials of robotic vending machines near its headquarters. These autonomous delivery robots were deployed in the store's parking lot, providing snacks and beverages to customers waiting for curbside pickup.

Oshkosh is the leading company in modular autonomous delivery bots, while Cox Enterprises and Emerging Automotive are in the second and third positions, respectively.

By geographic reach, Nuro leads the pack, followed by FedEx and Alphabet.

A major advantage of modular autonomous delivery bots is that it is reshaping last-mile delivery. It also offers optimum efficiency, cost savings, adaptability, autonomously navigating routes, and reducing labor expenses. Their modular design caters to varied payload sizes and delivery needs. More retail companies are adopting modular autonomous delivery bots to drive their efficiency. To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the retail industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Internet of Things (IoT) in Retail and Apparel.

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GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.