A new AI-powered lab at the University of Houston will supply real-time intelligence about the behavior of retail shoppers to help spur development of new technology for the retail industry.
The University of Houston College of Technology and Houston-based Relationshop announced the launch of the AI Retail Innovation Lab on November 10. Relationshop provides digital engagement and shopper loyalty technology to customers like Albertsons, United Supermarkets, Save On Foods, Market Street, and Big Y Foods.
The cloud-based lab, located at the College of Technology building in Sugar Land, will enable students, faculty, and industry professionals from across the U.S. to sift through in-store and online shopper data and then come up with new technology for the retail sector.
"This academic and commercial partnership with Relationshop accelerates the understanding and advancement of applied technology to keep pace with the unparalleled growth of digital retail as a result of COVID," Anthony Ambler, dean of the UH College of Technology, says in a news release.
The news release indicates new technology arising from the lab-supplied data "will optimize the shopper journey through more personalized and curated digital interactions across all forms of digital engagement and commerce … ."
Randy Crimmins, president of Relationshop, says his company will work alongside UH faculty and data science teams to advance the use of AI and big data in the retail sector.
"We see this partnership as a perfect blending of our strengths, with great synergy in the incredible work they are doing in academia, and our key areas of focus and experience in the retail marketplace," Crimmins says.
The AI lab, part of the College of Technology's Advanced Technology Innovation & Research Center, also will be a hub for industry training, undergraduate and graduate studies, and other initiatives.
The lab's activities will be carried out in concert with the AI Innovation Consortium, a think tank of IT and advanced technology thought leaders. Aside from UH, members of the consortium include Pennsylvania State University, Louisiana State University, and the University of Louisville.
The UH announcement comes two days after the official debut of a retail innovation lab at McGill University in Montreal. The lab, which includes a "fully frictionless" Couche-Tard Connecté convenience store, fosters collaboration among key players in the retail, emerging technology, and startup communities.
"By combining artificial intelligence and retail management, this retail innovation lab at the Bensadoun School of Retail Management will allow our researchers to develop new initiatives and technologies to improve the customer experience for the retail sector with the help of industry partners," says professor Morty Yalovsky, dean of McGill's Desautels Faculty of Management.
In the U.S., Alimentation Couche-Tard is the parent company of the Circle K chain of convenience stores. Circle K currently is rolling out frictionless technology, including AI-supported self-checkout systems, at stores in Tempe and Tucson, Arizona.