Supermarket Automation Improvement Using Robotics & IOT

Why Most Supermarket Automation Systems are Currently Rubbish!

Supermarket automation is something I had not thought about, until coronavirus lockdown.

This changed shortly after the start of lockdown when I got a job at a local supermarket.

Having been employed there for nearly four months from 1st April, through to late July, allowed me to observe how it worked.


Let’s consider a supermarket in terms of a machine.

In automation systems, such as PLC‘s , you can break the system down in terms of an input stage, followed by the process stage, and then the output stage.

In a supermarket, the input stage is the delivery of physical products by a delivery truck.

Once the goods, such as baked beans are delivered, then we move on to the ‘process’ stage.

The ‘process’ stage in a conventional supermarket, begins with the goods being taken off the delivery truck on wheeled metal trolleys.

The trolleys are bought into the back of the store, wrapped around with cellophane plastic.

The goods contained on each trolley, are not placed on each delivery trolley, in any logical order.

For example, a typical trolley could include beer, next to breakfast cereal, and toilet rolls.

This seemingly random loading of the delivery trolleys has two problems:

The first problem is that the delivery trolleys are large and heavy, therefore the products need to be unloaded into smaller trolleys so that the products can be taken into the ‘shop floor’.

The supermarket team leaders manually make up smaller trolleys, from the larger delivery trolleys, for staff to stock the shelves with.

This ‘making up’ smaller trolleys of goods, from the larger delivery trolleys, is inefficient in terms of staff time, and ultimately, therefore, money (wages).

Secondly, the time delay involved between unloading from the delivery truck, and getting the products onto the shop shelves, has potential food safety issues.

Some of the products that arrive on the delivery trolleys are refrigerated goods.

Whilst it should be stated, that the refrigerated goods are all on the same delivery trolley, there can be a delay in getting the goods into the store’s refrigerated cabinets.

More on supermarket automation, to come soon……





Garden Design Lighting using Lorawan

Garden design lighting is often used to enhance the visual appeal of gardens, and can be improved further using LoraWAN.

LoraWAN is a wireless communications technology, used to send data between devices.

Advantages of LoraWAN for garden design is its long range, and low power consumption.

The advantages of LoraWAN long range are pretty obvious, and allow lighting control over large areas. This is a positive advantage for large garden areas, such as stately homes and parks.

One issue with loraWAN, is that it is not designed to use optional ‘repeaters’.

Repeaters are devices in wireless radio communications, which receive a weak radio signal, and re-transmit it, at a stronger signal level.

Repeaters solve the problem that occurs with radio signals, at frequencies above 30 MegaHertz (MHz), at which radio signals are ‘line of sight’.

Line of sight means that physical features, such as hills, and buildings made of certain construction materials, will block radio signals.

Therefore physical obstacles ‘could’ block or reduce (attenuate) the LoraWAN radio signal.

Fortunately by careful positioning of LoraWAN devices can be an effective workaround.

So hopefully now you understand that LoraWAN is a wireless technology, used to send data, over wide physical areas, and at low power consumption.

You may however be wondering how it can be used in garden design lighting.

Firstly lets consider how we power lighting in the garden.

There are two methods available, solar and fixed Steel Wire Armoured (SWA) cabling, buried in the ground.

Solar has become a popular option in recent years, due to its ease of installation.

Most solar lights, have a small solar panel incorporated into the light design.

Therefore installation costs are very low (or free), as they just need putting where you want them located.

The disadvantage of solar lighting, can be light output levels.

This is because of the fact that the more light you want, the more power is consumed.

Therefore if you have bright lighting, it will have higher power consumption requirements.

Solar systems have small batteries incorporated, which store the electricity generated on sunny days, by the solar panels.

A bright light that has higher power requirements, will drain a small battery quicker, than a light with lower power requirements.

You might decide to have a larger storage battery, to supply the brighter light.

Unfortunately you would also need a larger solar panel, to charge it.

Hopefully you now understand, that having a decent level of light output from a solar based system, can be an issue.

Of course a system could be designed, using a large separate solar panel, and storage batteries. Such a system would then supply the lights, via cabling.

Such as system may work sufficiently well, in countries with high levels of all year sunshine, but not in many countries.

For most situations where high output garden lighting is required, a wired system is needed.

In its simplest form, a garden lighting system, could consist of a single cable, supplying all the lights.

Traditionally this would mean that all the lights would either be on, or off at the same time.

That’s ok, if you want to be boring, but what if you want to individually control the garden lights separately.

The ‘old fashioned’ method would be to have separate cabling from each light, to a control box.

The disadvantage of this method, is the high cost of installing individual cables.

It is also inflexible, as it is inconvenient and expensive, to alter the lighting at a later date.

A better way is to run a single cable, but control each lighting fixture, using wireless radio signals.

A number of technologies will achieve this, but LoraWAN is ideal, due to its long range.






What Is GNSS Satellite Technology Used For

GNSS is short for ‘Global Navigation Satellite System.

The system consists of a number of space satellites, which transmit positioning and timing data.

The data is then received by GNSS receivers, located on earth.

The receivers use the data received from the satellites, to determine the receiver’s location on earth.

GNSS systems provide global coverage, and a number of separate countries have their own developed systems.

Examples of systems that have been developed by countries include Europe’s ‘GALILEO’ , Russia’s ‘GLONASS’ , and the United States ‘NAVSTAR’.

Performance Considerations

To assess the performance of a system, the following benchmarking criteria are used.

1) Accuracy

2) Integrity

3) Continuity

4) Availability












Life as an NHS Deep Cleaner During Lockdown

Life as an NHS Deep Cleaner during lockdown has been very interesting.

I became an NHS Deep Cleaner, due to Coronavirus.

Prior to the lockdown, I was running Yesway Communications’, which specialises in RF Communications systems and services.

The two main income streams for yesway, are sales of two-way radio equipment to industrial users, and event equipment hire.

Both income streams were affected during following the announcement of the lockdown, especially event hire!

Therefore I decided to look for temporary work, in order to give me some ‘breathing space’ to think.

I saw a couple adverts back in late March, which seemed promising.

The first was to work for the coop, at one of there stores.

The Coop, like many other supermarkets, were recruiting extra staff to cope with the corona virus situation.

The second job that I applied for, was with my local NHS trust, and was labelled ‘Covid19 Temporary support worker’.

I was lucky to get both jobs that I applied for, and started at the Coop on April 1st 2020.

The NHS position took longer to come through, but I was emailed my contract on 12th April 2020.

After successfully completing an enhanced DBS (disclosure & barring service) background check, I started my training.

The initial training was completed online, due to Covid, and included infection control, diversity training, health and safety etc.

Once this was completed, I was invited up the the Lincoln Hospital site, for a final two hours of training, and to collect my NHS staff badge.

The first working week at the hospital, as a deep cleaner, was ‘full on’!

After collecting our uniforms, we headed for one of the MEAU wards.

MEAU is short for ‘Medical Emergency Assessment Unit’, and had been emptied of patients (including Covid patients), ready for ‘deep Cleaning’.

What is Deep Cleaning

Deep cleaning is carried out less frequently than regular hospital cleaning.

I suppose you could call it ‘forensic cleaning’, as you literally take furniture apart, to ensure no trace of dirt is left.

On the first day the experienced permanent deep cleaning staff quickly instructed us, on what to do.

They also pointed out when we had missed something.


This blog post will be expanded, when I have more time.  Come back soon.


Coronavirus Worldwide Fast Response Detection Solution

Coronavirus pandemic detection could be improved using already existing tools at our disposal.

Nearly everyone in the developed world has a smartphone, or

Most smartphones use the Google Android system, which like its Apple competitor, has voice search capabilities.

Amazon and others also have their home smart speaker systems (Alexa).

Voice search is built in already, and is triggered by trigger words, such as ‘Hey Google’.

As most of the world already has voice search technology, it can be used to detect coronavirus.

What tech companies need to do, is modify the algorithm that detects existing trigger words.

The voice search system modification that I imagine, would detect peoples coughs.

Using AI, the system could ideally differentiate between normal coughs, and the sound of a potential Cough caused by Corona-virus.

Even if a quicker to develop and deploy system that detected all coughs, was used, it would still be useful data for tackling coronavirus.

The ‘cough data’ can be sent to local authorities and health responders, who would then know who is potentially at risk, or suffering illness.

This in my humble opinion is a better solution than the one that Israel has apparently introduced. My reason for saying this is because the system that countries such as Israel, USA, UK etc are considering using, identifies ‘historical’ links (via smartphone and internet data) between those diagnosed with coronovirus, and those they have been in contact with, in the past.

The weakness of that approach, is that some people will contract coronavirus, due to exposure to others, but only experience mild symptoms.

If the virus gets really bad, it may be necessary to allow those with the virus, but not experiencing illness, to carry on working in some industries.

By instead using voice search, authorities get up to date live data on who is ill and where.

The voice search coronavirus detection idea, would also provide data on people nearby, who may not own a mobile phone, as their cough would trigger smartphones nearby.

In developing countries, where smartphone ownership is not so widespread, the use of so called ‘smart speakers’, such as Amazons ‘Alexa’ system could solve this.

An Alexa type system, connected to high sensitivity microphones, and deployed in towns and villages, could give local & national authorities an idea of corona virus spread.

These are my thoughts / ideas to help our global response to Coronavirus.

This article originally was written on my linkedin profile: Here

Smart Wine Glass

I Need More Wine – Wireless Sensing Smart Wine Glass

Benefits of I need more wine:

  • Automatic monitoring of diners who need more drink, using smart wine glass technology
  • Notification of ‘idle’ glasses, that are ready for collection
  • Opportunity for happier customers
  • Opportunity for increased drink sales revenue
  • Save employee time, monitoring restaurant tables*

I need more wine, provides restaurant owners with a solution that not only saves you money, but also pleases customers.

For enquiries, contact the designer Craig Miles.

Twitter: @acraigmiles



Bridge from Scotland to Northern Ireland Alternative Solution

Yesterday UK prime minister Boris Johnson re-announced his plans for a bridge linking Scotland to Northern Ireland.

Critics, including many leading engineers have suggested that the plan is impractical.

This is due to the depth of the water, and also the fact that the seabed contains huge amounts of dumped World War2 explosives.

A better alternative

So is there a better way to link Scotland with Northern Ireland?

I believe there is.

My design will allow cargo transport between Scotland and Northern Ireland, using guided drone trucks.

The drone trucks will hover above the sea.

The drone trucks will be guided by radio signals, to keep them on track.


More details to follow soon!



Drone Trucks The Future Road Ahead

Why have Potholes!

This blog post is about my ideas for the future road ahead.

Roads as we know them today, have been around for millennia, in one shape or form.

Although they are probably better than they have ever been, from a historical perspective, they are not perfect.

Heavy traffic levels, combined with restricted road maintenance budgets in many countries, have led to crumbling road surfaces.

Flying Trucks!

If trucks could fly then you solve the problem of road wear.

Of course trucks don’t fly, well at least not yet they don’t.

Drone Trucks!

Drone trucks could replace conventional road trucks, and save road wear.

Road wear would be eliminated, because the drone trucks would hover off the ground.

The drone trucks would be guided using radio waves, guided by radio beacons and GPS.

Drone Truck Safety.

Trucks are obviously heavy, so having one hovering above other road users could be potentially dangerous.

Power Issues

The issue with conventional drones is that they use propellers to make them fly.

The size of propellers needed to lift the drone truck, and its cargo, would need to be large.

Large propellers need large electric motors to power them, which require lots of power.

An alternative hybrid solution involving an airship combined with a traditional drone, might be the solution.

The drone truck I have in mind (and have designed in principle) would be capable of carrying heavy loads for long distances.

More Efficiency

The drone truck would be guided by wireless beacons and GPS tracking.

The drone truck would not require a driver, which would save money for the haulage operator.

Not having a driver would also eliminate the need for drivers to stop for statutory rest breaks.

This improves operational efficiency of the vehicle, and greater return on investment.


Reimagining The Road Of The Future

Reimagining the road of the future, will improve on current road space efficiency.

The M1 motorway in the Uk now carries ten times the daily traffic, that it was originally designed for.

The M1is Britain’s oldest motorway, and was opened in 1959.

For those unfamiliar with the term ‘motorway’, it is similar to the autobahn, autostrada, highway etc in other countries.

The motorway is a multi lane, high speed road, with barriers separating the two opposing directions.

The Problem with Motorways Today

In many countries, such as the Uk, the popularity of the car as a mode of transport, has put pressure demands on the motorway networks.

The are are three ways to tackle the increased congestion:

  1. Restrict the public’s access to cars and other non business vehicles.
  2. Build more physical road infrastructure.
  3. Make better use of existing road ‘real estate’, though new technologies.

This article is mainly focused on the third option, of making better use of what we already have built.

Firstly however, lets look at what is wrong with option 1, restricting public access to using private not business vehicles on the road.

Restricting the use of motor vehicles by the general public would be a controversial move.

Some environmental groups, such as Greenpeace & Extinction Rebellion might welcome it.

However the majority of the public would become angered.

An annoyed public poses two problems for a countries leaders.

Firstly, some communities have poor transport alternatives to the private motor vehicle.

This could be due to the lack of bus and train services.

This could prevent some people being able to continue in their jobs, and therefore pay tax to the state.

The second issue, is related to politics.

Introducing a policy that restricts potential voters access to using their cars, could be a foolish move politically.

This is especially true near election time.

If governments tried to restrict car use, then how would they achieve their objective.

Some countries like Greece and India, have tried to control pollution on bad air quality days, by vehicle registration number.

For example only cars with either an odd, or alternatively an even number at the start of their vehicle registration plate, can drive on that particular day.

This approach potentially causes problems for people getting to work.

Though the approach potentially encourages car sharing with colleagues and neighbours.

Another approach to reducing car transport is to only allow ‘Green’ vehicles on particular roads.

Central areas of cities such as London, now have low emission zones, where only green vehicles, such as electric, are allowed.

Some cities alternatively do allow older more polluting vehicles on certain roads, but with a high ‘congestion charge’.

The congestion charge makes it expensive for more polluting vehicles to use the roads.

This unfortunately is an unintended form of discrimination against mainly poorer people, with older cars.

Basically its mainly the poorer, that end up paying more to drive.

Option two from my list is to build more physical road infrastructure.

First lets look at the advantages of building more roads:

Building more roads creates construction jobs, and the workers pay taxes, and buy things from businesses, such as televisions and mobile (cell) phones.

Initially cars can flow easier, as there are more roads. Though as the M25 around London proves, they soon become very popular and congested.

The sensible solution therefore would be option three, namely to make better use of existing infrastructure.

I have imagined a few improvements that can be made to the existing road system.

One imagination, is an integrated system between road and rail.

The system would use an app on your smart phone, to enter your destination.

The app would work in a similar way to Google directions at present.

But rather than the app giving you directions via smartphone voice and maps, it would tell your driverless car where to go.

The driverless car would then take the shortest route to your destination.

The system is integrated with the railway system, and vehicles automatically drive on and off special ‘flatbed’ trains.

I have made a video on youtube, which further explains the concept.

This article will be expanded  and continued on a regular basis, as time permits. So keep coming back, or subscribe.







5G IOT Benefits For Society


5G IOT (Internet of Things) brings a number of benefits and new opportunities to the business world, allowing new business opportunities.

5G is the fifth generation of mobile phone technology, which originally started with the analogue TACS system, back in the 1980s.

Although data SIM cards for IOT applications are already available for use with 3G/4G, 5G is the first mobile (cell) phone technology specifically designed for use with IOT.

5G offers fast Gigabit data transfer rates, with very low latency.

The 5G network is also very reliable, with a dense number of local cells giving good redundancy, in case one cell should fail.

At least this is what is claimed, though of course history shows us that the mobile phone system can temporarily go down.

5G IOT is set to be a massive growth area, with estimates of 76 million 5G connections by 2025 (Source: ‘IOT Analytics’).

IOT Potential Uses


5G allows the effective connection of Industrial robots.

When we think of robots, people imagine different things, but robotic machines range from static robots, such as those used in car production, to autonomous guided vehicles (AGVS).

Other applications include:-

Video Surveillance

Smart Intelligent Mobility

Smart Grid Automation

In Car Infotainment

Vehicle Telematics

The use cases above, will be expanded on when I get more free time.

So check back regularly.