Framingham State University is the latest college in the U.S. to introduce Kiwibot to students.
This semester, 15 of the company’s delivery robots will be scurrying around campus, giving hungry students their meals.
The SAE Level 3 mobile robots have come to campus as part of a deal Miami-based Kiwibot made with food company Sodexo in February. By the end of the year, Kiwibot said it plans to place more than 1,200 robots at more than 50 college campuses around the U.S. and Canada. To date, the company has deployed its robots at 26 campuses around the U.S., according to its website.
Aretha Phillips, Framingham State’s Sodexo general manager, told Robotics 24/7 students aren’t bearing any of the cost for bringing the robots to campus. But for the model to be a success, Kiwibot and Sodexo are banking on students signing up for subscriptions.
The robots will have 20 drop off areas around FSU, according to Kiwibot operators on campus. Students will be able to order from the Ram’s Den Grille, Sandella’s Flatbread Café, the Red Barn Café in the Whittemore Library, and Resident Dining, according to the company’s ordering application. Ghost kitchens, online restaurants that are taking advantage of the university’s kitchens, will also be offered through Kiwibot. That includes Mr. Beast’s Burger, Mariah Carey’s Cookies, and Pardon my Cheesesteak.
Students will need to subscribe to use delivery robot service
To use the service, students, faculty, and staff will need to download Sodexo’s Everyday app. For now, the Everyday app is showing that food can only be ordered from the Ram’s Den Grille and Mr Beast’s Burger, but that will change soon, according to the company.
Students, faculty, and staff will be able to sign up for several subscription tiers to use the service. The silver package costs $40 a semester and includes 15 deliveries, the gold package costs $109 a semester and includes 45 deliveries, and the platinum package costs $159 an hour and includes 70 deliveries. They can also try the service out one time a la carte for $2.
The company said the robots can complete deliveries on average between 20 to 35 minutes. The company said the robots will be operate autonomously 70% of the time they are doing deliveries, but an operator will be able to take over when needed.
Initially, Kiwibot will be operating Sunday through Thursday, late in the afternoon to the evening, but that may change in the future. Kiwibot operators said they hope to be able to make morning deliveries from the Dunkin on campus sometime later this fall. Before doing that, they want to first let students get used to the service and seeing Kiwibots on campus.
The first official day of operations was on Friday, the first day of school, but Phillips said the robots have been on campus for about a month going through testing.
Rain or shine, Kiwibot will be on the move
The FSU food services staff have been using it to order food to places around the campus, and two Kiwibot employees who will be on campus this semester have been testing it as well.
Phillips said the robots are providing students with a great convenience, noting that they can operate during the rain and in some snowy conditions.
“They get a variety of menu options that they wouldn’t have otherwise,” she said. “When it’s raining outside and they don’t want to go out, they can actually order the food and have it delivered right to the door [of their dorm building].”
Founded in 2017, Kiwibot has raised more than $14 million in funding, according to Crunchbase. It originally launched a pilot at the University of California-Berkely College campus in 2018. Since then, its robots have completed over 150,000 deliveries.
Delivery robot space is a competitive market
Kiwibot is one of several delivery robot companies making their way to college campuses. In March, Starship Technologies announced that it was adding the University of Tennessee Knoxville to the list of college campuses that were using its robots, for example.
The delivery robotic space is certainly a hot market. Markets and Markets estimates that the global market will grow from $212 million in 2021 to $957 million by 2026 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 35.1 percent.
It attributes this growth to rise of online ordering, advancements in the technology, and the investments being made by large firms backing mobile robotics companies.