The retail industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation. Activity driven by a number of factors including supply chain optimisation and the growing importance of technologies such as automated shopping facility assistance, automated merchandise dispenser racks, and robotic order fulfilment. In the last three years alone, there have been over 133,000 patents filed and granted in the retail industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Robotics: Autonomous delivery management. Buy the report here.

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According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which uses over 128,000 patents to analyse innovation intensity for the retail industry, there are 70+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Autonomous delivery management is a key innovation area in robotics

Autonomous delivery management systems do the job of delivering goods from retailers autonomously without human intervention. Delivery robots are rapidly gaining popularity for this purpose. An operator can control the robot remotely and guide it through obstacles that it cannot navigate through by itself.

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 10+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established retail companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of autonomous delivery management.

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

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

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

Patent volumes related to autonomous delivery management

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Cox Enterprises 121 Unlock Company Profile
Walmart 115 Unlock Company Profile
Nuro 113 Unlock Company Profile
FedEx 33 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 21 Unlock Company Profile
Locus Robotics 16 Unlock Company Profile
Zume 16 Unlock Company Profile
Ocado Group 15 Unlock Company Profile
Indigo Agriculture 14 Unlock Company Profile
Qualcomm 9 Unlock Company Profile
Intel 8 Unlock Company Profile
Ford Motor 7 Unlock Company Profile
LG 6 Unlock Company Profile
Ninebot Beijing Tech 6 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Leading patent filers in automated delivery management include Cox Enterprises, Walmart, Nuro, and FedEx. In August 2022, Walmart announced that it was testing a robotic delivery vending machine provided by Tortoise, a silicon-valley startup, at a store near its headquarters.

In terms of application diversity, Cox Enterprises, LG, Ninebot Beijing Tech, and Walmart are the leading players.

In terms of geographic reach, Ocado Group, Ford Motor, Locus Robotics, and Ninebot Beijing Tech are the top players.

Deliveries through robots have several advantages including faster and more predictable deliveries without breaks or downtime. More players in the retail industry are likely to adopt robotics for deliveries as leaving deliveries to robots can allow personnel to focus more on higher value activities.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the retail industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Retail.

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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.