This year, Belgian retail federation Comeos has awarded its annual Mercury Prize to a world first: a project involving autonomous drones taking inventory in Ikea‘s Belgian shops at night.
Every night, drones take off in the self-service hall of Ikea’s shops to take inventory. This used to be an annoying job that was done manually and took months, but now it can be done automatically and much faster. This way, the Swedish flat-pack giant can free up time for tasks that employees find more satisfying. “It is a world first in Belgium that still has a bright future ahead of it”, the jury of the Mercury Prize praised its winner.
“Today, artificial intelligence and drones in retail are still all too often a gimmick”, jury president Gino Van Ossel elaborated. “The idea of dozens of drones taking off in Ikea’s self-service hall every night appeals to the imagination, but what actually matters is that Ikea manages to deploy brand-new technology in a relevant and mature way to the benefit of its employees, its customers and its business.”
Trade federation Comeos has annually awarded the Mercury Prize for more than thirty years, as a reward for innovation in trade. This year’s theme was “innovation with impact”. The silver medal was for PharmaPets, a pet food webshop that relies on veterinary advice. In just five years, the webshop has become the largest of its kind in Belgium, France and the Netherlands. Vanden Borre snatched third place with its smart business model that bets on keeping electrical appliances alive longer.