The new scanning system, dubbed Albert, consists of a device that, like previous iterations, can measure pressure and sizing. It also conducts 3-D imaging, assesses pronation and has the ability to track gait.
According to the firm, other devices on the market might measure one or more of these things, but never so many in a single system. “This project has taken a long time for us to develop because we’ve created something that’s never been done before,” said Larry Schwartz, CEO of Teaneck, N.J.-based Aetrex.
The entire system was built in-house at Aetrex’s technology division in Israel, by a team that consisted of three software developers, a hardware engineer, an optical specialist and a mathematician.
Their first step was to reinvent the scanning device itself. “The hard thing about developing hardware, compared with shoes, orthotics or even software, is when you’re creating something new, there are a lot of challenges,” said Schwartz. “But the mandate to the team was, we want to capture everything.”
The Albert scanner — a round device about 30 inches in diameter that sits on the floor of a retail store — is equipped with more than 5,000 gold-plated sensors, 1,000 infrared LED lights and receptors and 18 digital cameras.
When a shopper steps up to the machine, it will scan their feet separately and together, while a touchscreen video monitor and voice-over offers instructions. The entire process takes about a minute to complete. Afterward, the customer receives detailed information about their feet, such as pressure points, arch height and pronation, which the software uses to recommend an Aetrex orthotic.
By entering their email, customers can later access the data on the Aetrex-owned site Myfeet.com.
Schwartz, who said the company spent “millions” developing Albert, believes it will boost the firm’s orthotics sales. “Every time we’ve launched a new line of foot scanners, it’s generated a lot of growth,” he said, adding that the benefits for retailers are even more significant.
He estimated that by adding a scanning system to their stores, retailers could double their sales for high-margin insoles. And the Albert’s data-capture functionality is another important advantage.
“Bigger retailers love the data capture,” said Schwartz. “They can integrate [the emails and sizing information] into an e-commerce platform in a way that’s very effective for their business and the consumer.”
Aetrex will roll out 200 sets of the Albert this spring and summer, with plans to eventually place a couple thousand in the next few years. For retailers, the rental fee for the scanner is $300 per month, but Schwartz said Aetrex works hard to minimize costs.
“If a store sells three pair a day, they get it for free — so 90 in a month,” he explained. “At the end of the month they report how many they’ve sold, and based on that, the rental fee can be anywhere from $0 to $300. We have a lot of doors out there already doing 1,000-plus pair a year.”
In today’s difficult retail environment, Schwartz said the Albert is a timely resource. “People say, ‘This is exactly what we need’ — assets that can tie into the e-commerce program, enhance the retail experience and add on sales,” he said.
And, Schwartz noted, the technology has even more room to grow. Currently the hardware is capturing more information than the software needs. “But when the software catches up, there are so many applications, like 3-D printing,” he said. “There’s so much data coming from this, and we want to use it all strategically.”