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Adi Gaskell, Contributor A London based innovation scout

Open Source Solution For Smarter Warehouses

05/30/2017 07:17 am ET

Online-only supermarket Ocado are one of the most innovative retailers  in the world, with their Ocado Technology division ensuring they have the latest technologies.

For instance, I wrote earlier this year about an experiment the company conducted with robotic picking and packing of shopping at its highly automated warehouse.

The project is a collaborative venture between the Technische Universität Berlin (TUB), Università di Pisa, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V. (DLR), the Institute of Science and Technology Austria, Ocado Technology, and Disney Research Zurich.

The company are also planning a trial of driverless technology later this year in partnership with Oxbotica as part of the GATEway Project in Greenwich, London.

Open source

The company have also recently announced the release of Kubermesh, an open source package designed to simplify data center architectures for use in smart factories.  The system uses container-based technology to implement private cloud architecture on-site, with desktop computers configured to replicate the kind of computational and storage capabilities typically offered by high-end servers in data centers.

"Kubermesh is an elegant and cost-efficient solution to running our highly-automated Customer Fulfillment Centers based on a distributed network of computing nodes spread around the warehouse rather than high-performance servers concentrated in one large data center. This is a bold idea that has the potential to revolutionize the way companies approach on-site data center architectures. Thanks to the power of open source software such as Kubernetes, our platform automation team was able to quickly design a working prototype and develop it further based on advanced simulations of our future warehouse automation requirements. We're very excited to continue unlocking the potential of container technology at Ocado and hope that the open source community uses Kubermesh in new and exciting ways," Ocado say.

The base nodes in Kubermesh not only make the system more fault-tolerant and secure, but also provide a design that allows for real-time data processing in facilities such as automated warehouses and smart factories.  The company believe that by developing a distributed network, it removes the need for a dedicated data center and complex networking infrastructure.  Not only will this ensure better functionality, but also save energy and reduce both capital and operational expenditure.

Ocado are hoping to use the technology utilized in Kubernets to develop a MMO to teach school children the principles of AI as part of the Code for Life initiative started by the company.  You can learn more about the project, and access the source code via the GitHub link provided at the start of this post.

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