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Guillaume RIO
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The battle for the last mile is not over anytime soon. According to the World Economic Forum, there will be 36% more transport vehicles in the world’s top 100 cities with a 78% increase in demand for “last mile” delivery. This will be even more true, as the American company Urbx wants to turn the buildings of our cities into automated logistics warehouses.

The fact

If dark store has entered the collective language as well as the main players of ‘quick commerce‘, Flink, Getir, Gorillas, Gopuff… It is fascinating to see the unbridled automation of these new hybrid formats.

This ultra-fast service based on the concept of micro-fulfillment centers or MFCs (automated distribution centers) or “dark stores”, which refer to micro-platforms of 100 to 300 square meters operating in a very targeted catchment area (1 to 2 kilometers on average) located in urban areas to bring the product closer to the end consumer, are being multiplied in different formats.

Companies like Takeoff Technologies and Dematic are integrating them into the back of existing stores like Walmart, while Kroger and Ocado are building large autonomous smart warehouses.

In contrast to these industry players, Urbx Boston-based URbx Logistics is proposing to turn entire buildings into true “metavending machines” that will be both automated warehouses, pickup areas, but also user-friendly spaces in which it will be possible to order on-site.


For Urbex CEO Lincoln Cavalieri, this automated building format is perfect for urban environments. Since it does not require a large floor area, the viability of the storage is in the height (around 50m). According to its CEO, this vertical micro-fulfillment center format allows it to nestle in the limited and tight real estate areas of cities.

Urbx’s ambition is to offer a unique application where it will be possible to order products from different brands or chains stored in the automated building.


The app called Curb by Urbx will connect consumers with grocers and retailers who use MFCs in their catchment area. MFCs will save consumers 20 to 40 percent per order compared to ordering manually. According to its optimistic CEO, mobility, convenience, speed and price will help accelerate the deployment of MFCs around the world. Cavalieri said the company will eventually build “thousands” of its own automated markets under the Urbx brand.

Urbx’s automated process can fill a 50-item ($200) grocery order in 1 minute and 56 seconds. The democratization of these micro-fulfillment centers in cities could be supported by the rise of drones and autonomous delivery robots (see video).

For many cities, there are visible impacts on the occupation of the foot of buildings and on the additional travel flows generated by deliveries and the supply of “dark stores”.

To this end, Urbx has planned a “store” area at the foot of the building which will consist of a series of kiosks. Customers will be able to place their orders either by their vehicle or at the kiosk. The CEO explains that once an order is placed, Urbx’s robots can pack an order of 50 items in less than two minutes (an order of 25 items takes just over a minute).



From dark store to art store

This desire to assimilate into the urban landscape is pushed to the extreme by Getir, which has completely changed the front of one of its dark stores in Rotterdam by transforming it into a real art gallery. For this, the group has signed a partnership with the ‘Atelier Herenplaats’ gallery. urbx

The logistification of our city centers or the suspicion of a local business?

Guillaume RIO
Specialist of BATX & GAFA ecosystems and passionate about China, Guillaume analyzes the impact of new technologies on our lives.
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