Alberta tech companies partner to bring artificial intelligence and machine learning to supply chains


By Jackson Spring

Three Alberta technology companies are partnering to develop warehouses equipped with robots who use artificial intelligence and machine learning to make supply chains more efficient.

Edmonton’s AltaML and Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii) are providing research, expertise, and technology to Calgary-based Attabotics, a creator of robotic storage systems for supply chains.

"It's kind of a perfect union of very advanced tech and expertise on the robotic side and machine learning expertise on our side, and being able to really do something special at the intersection of those two things," said Cam Linke, Amii's CEO.

Attabotics's technology uses robots to store and retrieve goods from compact storage structures, which the company said requires 85% less space than traditional warehouses. The goal of the partnership is to optimize the technology by integrating artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Neeraj Gupta, the company's chief strategy officer, said the result will be a "network supply chain," which will use predictive data to further automate the process of storing goods and preparing packages for delivery.

"We are going to impact almost every phase of the supply chain in a positive manner," he said.

AltaML started developing AI software in Edmonton in 2017, and has since opened offices in Calgary and Toronto. Jil Macdonald, managing director of the Calgary office, describes Alberta as an "innovation hub”, which makes partnerships like the one between Amii, Attabotics, and AltaML possible. She said local talent, especially out of the University of Alberta, has been crucial to the business's growth.

Attabotics's technology uses robots to store and receive goods inside of a compact stack of bins. (Courtesy of Attabotics)

Attabotics's technology uses robots to store and receive goods inside of a compact stack of bins. (Courtesy of Attabotics)

Linke said that AI is becoming an increasingly important tool, not just for supply chains, but for many different industries, and that Alberta stands to benefit from the technology's growth.

"AI is at this super interesting point right now where it's both mature enough to have a real impact on companies, but it's also growing very rapidly on the research side," said Linke. "(It can be used in) industries like agriculture, energy, and supply chains. These are really core industries for Alberta."

Gupta, Linke, and Macdonald all agreed that collaboration between technology companies, such as their partnership, is an important part of the ecosystem in the province.

Macdonald said AltaML entered the partnership specifically to support other companies in the region.

"Being Alberta-born and raised, we really felt the need to support each other," explained Macdonald.

Gupta said that Attabotics has been working on network supply chains for several years, and with the help of Amii and AltaML, the technology will be ready to implement "rather quickly."

He added that the companies will continue working together beyond the initial implementation.

"This model will start becoming more intelligent, and we want to start working on several other use cases, so this partnership is long-term," Gupta said.