How does a supermarket prevent a catastrophic refrigeration failure from occurring? By listening to what the data coming from the refrigeration system is indicating.
That’s the principle behind the “Virtual Technician,” an artificial intelligence-based app from Oakland, California (U.S.)-based Axiom Cloud.
At a grocery store in Southern California, the app was able to catch the beginning of a liquid flooding event in the suction header of a medium-temperature rack – which could have severely damaged the compressors if allowed to progress. “It was still early, but it was trending in a bad direction,” said Amrit Robbins, CEO of Axiom Cloud.
The app alerted the retailer and helped a technician to identify the case group that was the root cause of the problem. “We correlated super heat in the suction header to the defrost schedules,” explained Robbins. “Whenever [the case group] went to defrost, everything was fine; so that case group was the culprit.”
The technician opened the cases, checked the valves, and was out in an hour. “That saved a lot of pain if the head compressor started to trip because of liquid,” said Robbins. There would have been “yellow tape in front of the cases, employees moving product, angry customers, angry employees, an angry CFO.”
To accomplish predictive maintenance like this, the Virtual Technician app processes thousands of data points from a refrigeration system’s controllers. “It compares what should be happening to what is actually happening,” said Robbins.
In the event of an anomaly, the app doesn’t merely create a “to-do” list – it takes action, which could be a software fix, a call to the store, or dispatching a technician with clear direction on how to address the problem, he explained.
Four major chain customers
Whole Foods Market is one of four major grocery chains using Virtual Technician, said Robbins. The app is being
used in “dozens of stores, and we want it to be in hundreds of stores by the end of the year. We’re excited by the level of demand.”
Whole Foods is also using Axiom Cloud’s other app, “Virtual Battery,” which can pre-cool low-temperature display cases in preparation for a hot afternoon, then decrease the electricity consumption when peak demand is experienced, thereby saving energy. In many cases, a retailer can generate revenue by engaging in this “demand response,” said Robbins.
Last month, Axiom Cloud announced that it has raised a $1.1M seed round of funding led by Ulu Ventures, with participation from Powerhouse Ventures, Correlation Ventures and others.
“ It compares what should be happening to what is actually happening.”Amrit Robbins, Axiom Cloud