Clobotics raises $11 million for retail and wind energy AI

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Inspecting wind turbines. Optimizing product displays for profitability. There’s not much artificial intelligence (AI) can’t do these days, and startup Clobotics wants to push that edge even further.

The Shanghai and Seattle firm today announced an $11 million funding round led by Nantian Infotech VC and Wangsu Science and Technology, both of which join previous investors KTB Network, GGV Capital, and Capital Development Investment Fund Management Co.

Clobotics, which was founded in 2015 by former Microsoft and Ehang executive George Yan, leverages its unique software computer vision platform to provide “real-time, data-driven insights” across verticals. With the infusion of new capital, it plans to expand its business in North America, invest in product development, and build on its team of computer vision, AI, and machine learning experts.

“Our goal is to use hardware, software, and technologies such as computer vision, AI, machine learning, and data analytics to … automate processes that have traditionally required [manual] labor,” Yan told VentureBeat in an interview. “The strategy is simple: In every market we venture into, we want to be No. 1 in that specific market.”

Currently, the company is in two: wind energy and retail.

Clobotics Smart Wind, its bespoke solution for preventative wind turbine maintenance, combines autonomous drone hardware with AI-infused software. Its drones snap high-quality footage of turbines and apply machine learning models to identify weakened components and pass that along to Clobotics’ cloud-hosted monitoring platform. They also share telemetry information with customers in real time.

Yan said the system can detect damaged components as small as 1mm by 3mm in size and that a typical inspection takes just under 20 minutes.

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Clobotics’ other core area of focus is consumer display packaging. That might sound like an unusual pairing, but Yan said the modular nature of its algorithmic framework allows the company’s team to train models in new domains relatively quickly. “Our solution is very scalable,” he said.

Clobotics’ Smart Retail recognizes product displays, barcodes, and assortments and makes suggestions to improve sales and profitability. Customers use a smartphone app to capture photos of store shelves, which Clobotics’ software-as-a-service platform parses in the cloud.

“Normally, our clients have inspectors visit gas stations, convenience stores, and supermarkets … [and] count how many products are on the shelf and try to remember whether the top shelf has a certain amount of the product, for example,” Yan explained. “It’s manual, highly repetitive work.”

Smart Retail cuts inspection time from 20 minutes to seconds and delivers actionable insights, such as projected revenue and placement suggestions. Yan said a “leading global soft drink brand” is using the company’s solution to increase sales in 10,000 brick-and-mortar locations in the U.S.

Clobotics, which has dual headquarters in Shanghai and Seattle, has raised $21 million to date. It has expanded rapidly in the past 21 months, hiring more than 100 new employees and landing “dozens” of international customers.

Source: VentureBeat

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