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Amazon creates a Fund for AI and Robotics in Logistics

To respond to the many logistical problems linked in particular to e-commerce, Amazon is launching a support fund for innovation in the field endowed with $1 billion. Already involved in 5 projects in the United States and Israel, it will help start-ups and established companies on robotics, AI or autonomy solutions, among others.

Mainly concerned with e-commerce logistics, Amazon created AIIF (Amazon industrial innovation fund), a venture capital fund to boost innovation in this area. Endowed with a billion dollars, it will support start-ups all over the world, but also more established companies, whatever their level of development – from seed to growth support -.

Already 5 robotics start-ups  financed
The device already supports five young shoots, including four in the United States and one in Israel. They evolve in the fields of warehouse wearables and robotics. Modjoul, in South Carolina, has created a belt that collects biomechanical data on its user, and issues personalized alerts and recommendations in the event of posture or movement likely to trigger MSDs (musculoskeletal disorders). Californians Vimaan and Mantis Robotics are respectively developing an AI with computer vision for inventory and a tactile robotic arm equipped with sensors to collaborate with warehouse workers. Agility Robotics in Oregon is designing a bipedal robot to circumvent the obstacles encountered by other types of logistics robots. Finally, the Israeli BionicHIVE is developing autonomous robots capable of adapting to existing racks and storage in warehouses and moving from floor to ceiling. A direct competitor of the French Exotec.

Amazon justifies the creation of its fund among other things by the need to respond to changes in online consumer behavior and rapid delivery requirements require new responses. Elements that directly concern its own strategy as the world number one in e-commerce with ad hoc logistics power. The AIIF fund will thus focus in particular on solutions intended to “incrementally increase the speed of delivery and improve the experience of logistics and warehouse employees. »

Robotics, AI, machine learning and wearables
However, more generally, logistics today also faces numerous and complex problems of flow management, multimodality of transport, management of the last mile, optimization and automation of warehouses or reduction of its footprint. environmental. As Fabien Esnoult, founding president of the French monitoring and innovation unit Sprint Project, recently pointed out, this situation is giving rise to many logistics start-ups all over the world, and in particular in Europe. The IAAF fund will be used to identify the most relevant from Amazon’s perspective.

The American does not want to limit himself in the range of technologies to be financed, even if he unsurprisingly cites robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning or autonomous equipment as a priority. And he has undeniable and valuable expertise in sorting the wheat from the chaff among the innovations available. Since its inception, its e-commerce activity has already benefited from its own financial and technological capacities for internal innovation on these subjects. Amazon, for example, mentions its robotic arms that perform repetitive tasks and its autonomous movement technologies to support the transport of bulky products. It also has its own autonomous robots for goods-to-men order preparation in its warehouses, within its Amazon Robotics subsidiary. A solution bought from Kiva in 2012, which it nevertheless reserves for its own sites.

Contribute to the improvement of working conditions
To justify the creation of its fund, Amazon also highlights the improvement of the working conditions of its employees with cobots, robots performing arduous tasks or support devices such as belts or exoskeletons. . A striking argument when the group’s problems with its logistics employees, particularly in the United States, are recurrent. To the point that they led to the historic validation in early April of the creation of the first union on one of Amazon’s sites, in Staten Island (New York). A study published in April 2022 by the research firm Strategic Organi

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