Ahold Delhaize focuses on AI, intros tech lab

A new partnership is putting Ahold Delhaize on the ground floor of artificial intelligence (AI) technology development.

The international supermarket retailer is teaming up with the Innovation Center for Artificial Intelligence (ICAI), a Netherlands-based firm that jointly develops AI technology through industry labs with the business sector, government and knowledge institutes. The duo’s first order of business was to launch a lab committed to developing AI technology.

The ICAI-Ahold Delhaize industry lab, called AIRLab, features seven engineers that will research socially responsible algorithms that can be used to make recommendations to consumers and into transparent AI technology for managing goods flows. In addition, AIRLab will focus on talent development tracks. Research will be applied at Ahold’s Albert Heijn and bol.com banners.

“Artificial Intelligence offers countless possibilities for the retail industry, the consumer and society at large,” said Frans Muller, deputy CEO, Ahold Delhaize. “With this partnership, we want to further develop our ongoing initiatives and learn how AI can be used to better serve the interests of our customers.”

Specifically, the retailer plans to explore how AI can further optimize Albert Heijn’s supply chain. “We want to improve the availability of goods, for example, by taking into account local weather conditions,” Muller explained. “Also, we will investigate ways to make the assortment of bol.com even more accessible to customers. These insights and knowledge can be applied to our brands in the United States and Europe.”

Both partners set up shop in the Netherlands in hopes of leveraging the country’s “long tradition in AI education.” For ICAI, it is a chance to leverage resources outside of the traditional technology segment.

“The Netherlands has all the resources to take a prominent position in the international AI landscape – top talent, innovation strength and research at world-class level,” said Maarten de Rijke, director of ICAI, and professor of Information Retrieval at the University of Amsterdam. “AI will influence every sector of society. The partnership with Ahold Delhaize is of major importance because with it we are making a serious investment in the development of AI talent and technology outside of the traditional technology sector.”
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