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Retail Tech: Onfleet Raises $23M, Apple Introduces BNPL, Mojix Debuts First-Mile Traceability

The weekly Retail Tech Roundup compiles technology news across the supply chain, manufacturing, retail, e-commerce, logistics and fulfillment sectors.

Traceability

Mojix

Mojix, a provider of item-level supply chain intelligence solutions, debuted Source, a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform and app designed to make first-mile traceability easy and low cost for raw material suppliers. The solution provides traceability program records within 24 hours of a data request.

Origination data is attached to the rest of the supply chain, all the way to the last mile, for end-to-end visibility. The multi-enterprise traceability platform was built on the back of the FDA Traceability Challenge, but Source’s addressable market for supply chain transparency is built to go well beyond food safety. Source can help businesses reach Corporate Social Responsibility objectives and reduce brand risk through product authentication, quality assurance and supplier control.

The product launch comes as manufacturers often know their direct suppliers and direct customers, but supply chain intelligence usually ends there. Data uncertainty also increases as brands try to gain clarity upstream, to the original materials composing an item. This hinders nationwide or global withdrawals and recalls.

Combined with partner technologies, Mojix says it can improve recall speed tenfold to completion by indicating, for example, for one lot number, how many cases of this lot are currently at which DCs, warehouses or restaurants.

When developing the platform, the first objective for Mojix was to make sure that any field worker could give a serialized identity to their production, whatever their working conditions, with a smartphone. The app was built with encoding capabilities as well as onboarding features to better understand and automatically access GS1 standard lot codes and create universal establishment identities like global location numbers (GLNs).

The app is built to require minimal input from the user and automates every repetitive action. It produces standard labels in any format such as barcode, QR code or RFID, that will serve to track the item or lot throughout its lifecycle from the earliest moment possible. The app is also equipped with recognition technology to automatically populate data fields from available documents, such as purchase orders or invoices.

Source captures item- or lot-level key data elements (KDEs) and critical tracking events (CTEs) from the first mile, but connects this data to the rest of the supply chain, all the way to the last mile. This is what creates full item and/or lot life cycle visibility.

The IDs that are created for items and lots, and the data associated with these IDs is aggregated and managed within the platform. Source stitches together relevant KDEs and CTEs, in full conformity with the regulatory requirements in the U.S. to start. Food brands, quick service restaurants (QSRs), grocers and distributors worried about the additional record-keeping requirements need only onboard their suppliers to be able to automatically produce traceability reports, in a format acceptable for authorities, and shareable in one click. Once a supplier is registered and using Source, they become compliant by default with any other potential client with similar requirements.

As with other encoding technologies, the item/lot itself, with its unique and universal code, essentially can become the bearer of the information, and the link to enterprise information systems. That way, users won’t necessarily have to rely on transactional documents to trace the nature or the origin of a lot or an item. The lack of intermediation is designed to make the data more reliable and accessible from a single source of information.

All the data can be shared, but it’s in one place: Source acts as a repository for the data related to certification and laboratory testing. In one click, it’s possible to know the history of an establishment (GLN), based on auto-testing, external testing, and certifications. Rules and workflows for validation of the data entered can be added for increased data integrity. Last, this data can be connected to a blockchain throughout.

Logistics

Dematic/Google Cloud

Dematic, a subsidiary of global intralogistics provider Kion Group, is deepening its partnership with Google Cloud, helping the supply chain industry through accelerated cloud innovation.

The company aims to bolster supply chain resiliency and deliver go-to-market solutions by combining Dematic’s supply chain expertise with Google Cloud’s cutting-edge cloud, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies.

Dematic designs, builds and supports intelligent automated solutions empowering and sustaining the future of commerce for its customers in manufacturing, warehousing, and distribution.

The partners will join forces to leverage shared learnings that can drive rapid cloud innovation. By migrating Dematic’s offerings to the cloud and introducing AI and ML, Dematic will improve customers’ supply chain execution.

The partnership will allow Dematic to develop and deploy a range of solutions, including e-commerce and omnichannel fulfillment, and control tower applications for key vertical markets including general merchandise, grocery, apparel, and food and beverage.

With Google Cloud, Dematic customers can create a more sustainable supply chain by leveraging data to understand efficiencies to be gained in areas such as operations, planning, labor and inventory.

Buy now, pay later

Apple

Apple introduced Apple Pay Later, its buy now, pay later (BNPL) solution enabling U.S. users to divide purchases into four equal payments spread over six weeks.

Apple Pay Later takes aim at BNPL incumbents including Klarna, Affirm, Afterpay, PayPal and more. Using Apple Pay Later, consumers pay the first payment up front and the other three every two weeks. The platform includes no interest rates or fees of any kind, although a user’s card-issuing bank may charge a fee if their debit card account contains insufficient funds.

The feature is built into Apple Wallet and designed to make it easier to view, track and repay Apple Pay Later payments within Wallet. Users can apply for Apple Pay Later when they are checking out with Apple Pay, or in Wallet. Apple Pay Later is available everywhere Apple Pay is accepted online or in-app.

Additionally, with Apple Pay Order Tracking, users can receive detailed receipts and order tracking information in Wallet for Apple Pay purchases with participating merchants.

The program will start in the U.S. and expand globally later.

Apple is throwing its hat in the buy now, pay later (BNPL) ring with the introduction of Apply Pay Later, enabling U.S. users to divide purchases into four equal payments spread over six weeks.

Apple will handle the lending within the platform itself. A wholly owned subsidiary—Apple Financing LLC—will oversee credit checks and make decisions on loans for the service. It has the necessary state lending licenses to offer the feature, though it operates separately from the main Apple corporation.

Carbon neutrality/offsets

Relex Solutions

Relex Solutions, a provider of AI-driven supply chain and retail planning solutions, has retroactively achieved carbon neutrality for 2021 and begun compensating annually for their emissions. Relex partnered with offsetting provider Compensate to calculate and offset their carbon footprint. In practice, this means the company successfully removed or avoided 2,544 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

The company reached the milestone through investments in two initiatives: afforestation in Qianbei, China, where 47,061 hectares of barren land are being converted into a forest, and the Luangwa Community Forests Project in Zambia, which improves local communities and protects 1 million hectares of wilderness areas.

Relex and Compensate calculated the solution provider’s carbon footprint across scopes 1, 2 and 3, addressing both direct and indirect emissions. The approach allowed Relex to gain a holistic view of their carbon output, helping the company to innovate, execute, and track new ways to reduce emissions from all three scopes.

These global carbon offset projects are an addition to strategies Relex has already put in place to reduce their emissions. Flexible work-from-home policies, reducing non-essential business travel, successful remote implementations and maximizing renewable energy coverage in Relex’s cloud computing are a few examples of current initiatives that will continue to evolve at the company.

Onfleet

Onfleet, a global provider of last-mile delivery management software, has raised $23 million in Series B funding.

The new round will be used to accelerate Onfleet’s technology innovation and expand its product and engineering capabilities to help businesses around the world launch, optimize and successfully scale their delivery operations. Khaled Naim, Onfleet’s CEO and co-founder, said the company will use the funding to accelerate the growth of its team and further invest in its machine learning, route optimization and workforce management features.

The round was led by Kayne Partners, the growth equity group of Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors, L.P. with participation from existing investor Savant Growth, and brings the company’s total capital raised to over $40 million.

Additionally, the company unveiled a new carbon offsetting initiative to counteract deliveries powered by its platform. Dubbed Onfleet Offset, the program will calculate the CO2 impact of its customers’ delivery operations and share in the cost of offsetting emissions by investing in Gold Standard, VCS, CAR and ACR-verified nature conservancy projects such as reforestation and old forest protections.

Onfleet’s partner, Pachama, will verify and monitor the impact of these projects using computer vision and machine learning technologies.

With the support of its customers, Onfleet hopes to offset 5,000 tons of CO2 per month by the end of this year and expects to have offset a total of more than 100,000 tons of CO2 by the end of 2022, which is the equivalent of taking 20,000 cars off the road for a full year.

The program, which kicks off on May 1, will offset emissions through the purchasing of carbon credits at $8 per metric ton. Customers that opt into the program will contribute $4 per metric ton of carbon credits for their deliveries, which will then be matched by Onfleet to fully offset customers’ delivery emissions. Emissions resulting from deliveries will be determined through the usage of EPA GHG coefficients and vehicle mileage.

Through efficiency improvements with features such as route optimization and automated dispatching, Onfleet’s software is designed to enable customers to effectively reduce fleet fuel consumption. Via improved routing efficiency, Onfleet says it has helped prevent “tens of thousands of tons” of CO2 from entering the atmosphere over the past several years.

Onfleet Offset is built to take things a step further, allowing customers to purchase carbon credits for the remaining emissions and neutralize the environmental impact of their delivery operations, with Onfleet contributing equally to the offset with its own capital.

E-commerce

Deer Stags/CommerceHub

Comfort dress footwear brand Deer Stags is leveraging CommerceHub to power its own website, steadily expand its e-commerce capabilities and develop its drop shipping fulfillment operation.

Deer Stags began working with CommerceHub in the early 2000s as it sought to innovate new online routes to market and extend its ability to reach more consumers for an expanding line of products. CommerceHub software solutions have enabled the company to build a drop-ship business in a more unified marketplace, the brand says. The extensive CommerceHub network is also helping Deer Stags connect with more national retailers to enhance its already lengthy roster of retail partners.

“Our commitment to our customers includes being as close to them as possible, wherever and whenever they might be looking for our brand,” said Danny Muskat, senior vice president of strategic business development at Deer Stags. “This means being on the shelves and websites of our large retailer partners, as well as our own drop ship and marketplace programs. It’s all about consumer choice and delivering the best possible customer experience. This is what drives us and drives our business.”

CommerceHub recently introduced its Commerce Suite, offering both marketplace and drop-ship capabilities in one solution, with a single connection to an integrated commerce network. In addition to being able to adapt more quickly to changing consumer demand and market trends, users can also more easily maintain control over their brand and customer experience.

Virtual reality

Tokens.com/Emperia

Metaverse Group, the subsidiary of Tokens.com Corp., a company that invests in Web3 cryptocurrency assets and businesses linked to the Metaverse and NFTs, has entered a partnership with virtual reality (VR) technology company Emperia, to collaborate on creating experiences in virtual storefronts for fashion brands in the Metaverse.

The partnership aims to build interactive, immerse experiences that communicate a brand’s narrative. The goal is to provide fashion and art retailers with a frictionless, guided process for establishing a retail store in the Metaverse. The collaboration will leverage Metaverse Group’s diverse portfolio of virtual real estate across several Metaverses.

Lorne Sugarman, CEO of Metaverse Group, said that the company’s analysis from Metaverse Fashion Week showed that its tenants’ store hosted users for an average of 27 minutes.

Emperia has built out virtual reality stores for various luxury brands both in and out of the fashion industry. This partnership comes at the heels of Emperia launching a new SaaS solution that provides fashion brands and retailers full creative control over product placement and space decor, in their virtual stores.

Digital tagging

Mattress Firm/SES-imagotag

Mattress Firm has selected SES-imagotag, a company that provides digital solutions including pricing automation and shelf efficiency, to be the official digital tag provider for its 2,300 U.S. retail stores.

The combination of SES-imagotag’s Vusion Retail IoT solution and the Cisco Meraki cloud-managed networking platform seeks to help businesses scale and enhance customer experiences. With Meraki’s ESL integration capabilities and Wi-Fi 6 Access Points, Vusion solution will help Mattress Firm quickly deploy and activate all its stores within a few months.

As a result, the retailer can simplify store operations, enhance customer experiences, and lower the total cost of the solution for its locations, all while contributing to the SES-imagotag Positive Retail initiative.  

“The Vusion Retail IoT platform will provide immediate benefits in our stores to both our customers and our 6,500 sleep experts across the country,” said Jon Sider, chief information officer at Mattress Firm in a statement. “The automated pricing solution will allow us to make price adjustments more quickly and efficiently, which ultimately creates an even more seamless shopping experience.”

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