Imagine a warehouse, just like the one pictured below, packed with thousands and thousands of boxes.
Now imagine not one, but a vast network of such warehouses, each containing thousands and thousands of boxes and new ones arriving every day. Currently warehouse workers walk from one aisle to another, manually count the number of boxes on a given shelf, record the data and verify that this number corresponds with the quantity in the database.
As you can imagine, this is a very time consuming and costly process. Workers have to spend hours every day walking and counting the various amounts of boxes. Also, since there is a human component involved, it is easier to make a mistake while counting, recording erroneous information and other possible mistakes which can wreak havoc in the warehouse.
What if we told you, that we are working on a state-of-the-art AI-powered robot which will optimize cycle counting by eliminating the need to manually count all of the inventory and input it into the system by hand. The robot will do everything for you. Imagine how much time and money this can save you. Even though this may sound like something out of a sci-fi movie, Innovecs is making it a reality. We already have a prototype developed and the robot itself will be fully operational in 6 months.
The goal of the project is to develop software which will allow a robot to calculate the number of boxes within an image by employing OpenCV and Tesseract technologies. These boxes will be stored in a huge warehouse and the rows of the warehouse will have labels on them such as the one below.
The robot must be able to:
- Read the barcode and letters on the warehouse shelf which contains information about the quantity of boxes located in a particular aisle or shelf.
- Identify the object in the image (pellet, box, label, etc.)
- Count the number of boxes in the image
- Verify that the number of boxes in the image matches the number stored in the database
Challenges which We Need to Overcome
Creating a robot which can accomplish the above stated goals poses difficult, yet interesting challenges. Namely:
- Detecting, identifying and quantifying objects in an image.
- Synchronizing information received with the overall database.
- Reading and recognizing the bar code on warehouse shelf containing relevant data.
- The boxes are stored in a warehouse in subzero conditions, -30°C, meaning that the camera must be operable in such temperature.
- The warehouse is equipped with low lighting, so the camera must be able to detect objects in the image and count them using a low amount of light.
Object Detection and Object Analysis
The two major components of the project are to create a robot that can first of all detect an image and then be able to analyze that image. These are two very different steps.
For object detection, we are simply trying to find out whether the object is in the frame and its approximate location. We use OpenCV for this since its features are better suited. For analysis, we use Tesseract, since OpenCV does not include OCR libraries. There are two general settings where OCR is applied:
Controlled: Images taken from a scanner or something similar, where the target is a document and things like font, perspective, orientation, background consistency are mild in nature.
Uncontrolled: More natural, outside photos taken from a camera where you are trying to identify a traffic light, a stop sign etc.
Tesseract is better when used in a controlled setting, such as a warehouse and this is why we decided to use it. Generally, retraining OCR will not directly improve detection, but may improve recognition, especially for scene OCR.
The Final Product
The final product will be an robot powered by artificial intelligence, which will be placed on a forklift, like the illustration below.
It will fulfill all our project goal and reduce our client’s labor costs and provide a better, more efficient way to keep track of inventory.
This only one example of innovative software solutions Innovecs is creating for our clients. We are always open to new, exciting and challenging projects where we can create cutting edge software solutions. Partner with Innovecs and discover for yourself the Innovecs difference.