Amazon backs Israeli autonomous robot maker BionicHIVE for warehouse solution. Source: THE TIMES OF ISRAEL

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Amazon backs Israeli autonomous robot maker BionicHIVE for warehouse solution

Company developed robotic fleet, powered by AI-based algorithmic engine, to sort, select, put away packages

By Ricky Ben-David Today, 7:02 pm

BionicHIVE’s SqUID warehouse robot helps sort and manage packages. (Courtesy)

E-commerce giant Amazon has invested in Israeli robotics company BionicHIVE, the developer of an automated warehouse solution based on a fleet of synchronized autonomous robots, the companies announced Thursday.

BionicHIVE makes the SqUID, a robotic device powered by an AI-based algorithmic engine that can sort, select, and put away packages, navigate warehouse floors using in-built cameras and sensors, and move between people and objects. The company says the SqUID robots are deployed in a “wide range of supply chain facilities utilizing existing shelving racks and boxes.”

A video of the robots in action caught the eye last year of business magnate Elon Musk, of SpaceX, Tesla and other companies and interests, who tweeted that “the robot future is coming.”

Based in the southern Israeli town of Sderot, BionicHIVE has been bootstrapped since 2014 when it was founded by entrepreneurs Liran Raizer, Tomer Amit, and Ilan Reingold.

Although the amount was not disclosed, Amazon’s investment marks the company’s first big-name backer.

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The multinational tech, commerce, streaming, and cloud computing company made the investment through the newly launched Amazon Industrial Innovation Fund, a $1 billion fund announced Thursday that is set to “spur supply chain, fulfillment, and logistics innovation and further improve the customer and employee experience.”

Amazon said the fund will invest in companies that advance solutions that increase delivery speed and improve working conditions for warehouse and logistics employees. Amazon is believed to have over 2,000 facilities worldwide, including fulfillment, processing, and delivery centers, with over 300 more such facilities in the works.

Israeli company BionicHIVE developed an autonomous fleet of robots for an automated warehouse solution. (Courtesy)

According to Geekwire, Amazon employs over a million people across the US and over 1.5 million globally. The company’s employment conditions for warehouse workers have come under increased scrutiny and criticism.

Alongside the investment in BionicHIVE, the new fund also invested in four other robotics companies, all based in the US. None of the investment amounts were disclosed.

“The purpose of the Amazon Industrial Innovation Fund is to support emerging technologies through direct investments, designed to spur invention and solve for the world’s toughest challenges across customer fulfillment operations, logistics, and supply chain solutions,” said Katherine Chen, head of the Amazon Industrial Innovation Fund, in the Amazon announcement.

“Amazon has recognized BionicHIVE for its differentiated solution capable of optimizing safety around repeated tasks, at any height, in the supply chain workplace, and this is the kind of technology that’s pulling innovation forward,” added Chen.

Illustrative: Amazon packages move along a conveyor at an Amazon warehouse facility in Goodyear, Arizona, on December 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

BionicHIVE co-founder Reingold told The Times of Israel via email: “As an Israeli, it’s a big deal to be one of the very few companies that Amazon has invested in here and the first in the fulfillment arena. In general, it’s a tremendous validation of our unique approach and a big step forward towards expanding and scaling internationally.”

Reingold said the company will use the funding to grow its teams and operations, establish a US presence and expand its customer base.

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