Coming to selected Punggol residents: Robot delivery of groceries, parcels
SINGAPORE — Some Punggol residents may soon be receiving their groceries or parcel deliveries from a robot. The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) launched a year-long trial in Punggol on Thursday (March 11) where autonomous robots will deliver groceries and parcels to residents of seven Housing and Development Board (HDB) blocks in Punggol’s Waterway Woodcress estate.
- IMDA launched a year-long trial to test the delivery of groceries and parcels by two autonomous robots in Punggol
- Residents of selected blocks may arrange for the robots to deliver groceries from NTUC FairPrice to the void decks
- Those who have parcels being shipped by DHL or UPS may also arrange for the same
- This is done through a mobile application where they specify a half-hour slot for items to arrive
SINGAPORE — Some Punggol residents may soon be receiving their groceries or parcel deliveries from a robot.
The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) launched a year-long trial in Punggol on Thursday (March 11) where autonomous robots will deliver groceries and parcels to residents of seven Housing and Development Board (HDB) blocks in Punggol’s Waterway Woodcress estate.
Two robots, named Camello, will be delivering items to Blocks 665A, 665B, 665C, 666A, 666B, 667A and 667B Punggol Drive.
Residents of these blocks may use the robots to deliver either trolleys of groceries bought in-store from the neighbouring NTUC FairPrice supermarket at shopping complex Oasis Terraces, or parcels that are being delivered by shipping firms UPS and DHL.
The delivery will be to the void decks of the housing blocks.
The trial also involves other government agencies such as HDB and the Land Transport Authority as well as private companies such as logistics service provider CM Logistics and technology provider Otsaw.
CM Logistics is handling the manpower and logistical aspects of the deliveries, while Otsaw designed the robots.
HOW IT WORKS
The 80kg robots have compartments of 100L each to store items. It also has a 3D-scanner to map and programme routes to the housing blocks. A sensor allows it to detect and avoid obstacles along the way.
Residents buying groceries from NTUC FairPrice may leave their items with a concierge on the third level of Oasis Terraces mall.
They can then download the Camello mobile application that allows them to specify the half-hour time slots for the groceries to be delivered.
For those with parcel deliveries, CM Logistics will ask customers if they wish to opt for robot delivery. If they do, residents may use the same app to specify their delivery timings.
The robot, which travels at a walking speed of 5km/h, will then make its way through the ramps and park connectors linking Oasis Terraces to the resident’s block. It will be accompanied by a safety officer during the trial period.
Once the robot arrives at the void deck, the app will alert the resident to pick up the items. The resident may retrieve the items from the robot’s compartment by scanning a QR code on the robot with their mobile phones to unlock the compartment.
Delivery services by the robots are from 10am to 7pm on weekdays and 10am to 2pm on Saturdays. They do not deliver on Sundays.
Mr Chiam Kok Yaw, the chief executive officer of CM Logistics, said that other delivery services inform customers that their parcels will arrive in a span of a few days or hours.
However, those using the robots will be able to arrange for their deliveries within a more specific timeframe of half an hour. This will also help to ensure that customers are home to receive the items.
REDUCING RELIANCE ON MANPOWER
Speaking to the media at the launch of the trial, Dr Janil Puthucheary, the Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information, said that the trial will help industry players find ways to reduce their reliance on manpower given the surge in e-commerce transactions during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The use of an autonomous mobile robot, such as this trial, can hopefully give a better customer experience. It can potentially generate new business models and, hopefully, it means that we can scale up without being dependent on manpower as a limiting step.”
He added that IMDA, which is an agency under the Ministry of Communications and Information, will examine areas for improvement and consider rolling out the robots to the rest of the island if the trial goes well.
When asked if such robots will displace jobs in the e-commerce and logistics sectors, Dr Janil gave the assurance that it will not because there are many other tasks within the sectors that still require manpower.
Punggol resident Christine Chong, 53, an administrative executive who took part in the demonstration of the robots on Thursday, said that having such delivery services would be useful for shoppers like her who have “weak” muscles.
Having a robot deliver her groceries to the void deck of the housing block means that she will not have to make several trips to the grocery store to buy heavier items. She plans to use the robot’s services during the trial period.