Four startups that are poised to revolutionize e-commerce in 2018

The trend is moving in one direction: Everyone will be offering on-demand, no Prime membership required
Written by Greg Nichols, Contributing Writer on

Robotics and big data have already revolutionized e-commerce. These companies are helping to distribute that revolution evenly.

Drone Delivery: Flytrex

Drone delivery is already available, albeit in limited markets. Flytrex, a drone logistics company, is well on the way to changing that.

The company launched the world's first fully autonomous drone delivery system in Iceland this year, cutting average delivery times for e-commerce company AHA by over 75 percent on certain items while saving 60 percent in delivery costs.

The autonomous drones can navigate dense urban spaces and cost operators as little as $0.8 per mile, far less than delivery by truck.

The company, based in Tel Aviv, is working on expanding to a number of other locations around the world. But don't expect a big U.S. push in the coming months. The industrial drone market is still heavily regulated here, and it's unclear when deliveries that go beyond a drone pilot's line-of-sight will be permitted by the FAA.

Making entertainment a shopping experience: SPOTT

Spott's technology makes content interactive, enabling users to search through scenes from shows and movies to find out exactly what item is being used. From cooking utensils to fine suits, Chicago-based Spott shares brand and price information with users and enables quick purchases.

The implications are big not just in e-commerce, but also in content marketing and entertainment.

Thanks to Spott, the wardrobe and prop departments are about to become a primary revenue stream for Hollywood, and whatever demarcation still exists between entertainment and commerce is going to crumble for good.

Bringing Amazon-level robots to all players: 6 River Systems


6 River Systems, founded by former Kiva execs and based in Waltham, MA, has created an advanced warehouse robot named Chuck.

When e-commerce companies install Chuck in their fulfillment centers or warehouses, they can expect fulfillment on average 2-3x faster than cart picking at half the cost of traditional automation.

Chuck does it by leading human workers around fulfillment centers to the exact location of items they need, ensuring the workers can sort and process inventory extremely quickly.

Because Chuck uses human workers for some of the more sophisticated sorting tasks, the solution is affordable enough for mid-sized fulfillers, opening up automation at nearly every level of e-commerce.

Like many robotics companies, Chuck also brings value to companies by compiling data over time that allows warehouse managers to make more informed decisions that speed up the sorting process, a traditional bottleneck of fulfillment.

Micro-fulfillment: Common Sense Robotics

Contemporary supply chains rely on economies of scale. Common Sense Robotics, another Israeli company, wants to change that.

Instead of retailers storing most of their inventory in large warehouses far removed from population centers, CSR utilizes advanced AI and robotics to enable retailers to store and process much of their inventory in strategic locations in close proximity of last-mile delivery.

The company hopes its micro-fulfillment centers will become vital to retailers looking to keep up with Amazon.

The big trend here is that e-commerce fulfillment is about to get a lot faster, Prime membership or no -- and not just through big retailers. By giving smaller companies access to predictive targeting and micro-fulfillment centers, Common Sense Robotics can drastically reduce the cost of deliveries, making on-demand affordable and scalable.

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