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AI Enhances Refurbished Device Market: Lenovo, 3stepIT, Aixia Each Tout Milestones

June 12, 2024 by Joe Panettieri

Some major PC companies and circular technology businesses are leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance their refurbished laptop and device initiatives.

Among the anecdotes to note:

First, the basics: A refurbished laptop is a device that has been returned to the manufacturer or channel partner, inspected, and restored to a like-new condition, according to Best Buy. These laptops could have been returned for various reasons, such as minor defects, cosmetic issues, or simply buyer's remorse, the electronics retailer notes.

The refurbished laptop market is expected to reach $13.9 billion by 2032, up from $8 billion in 2023, according to Global Market Insights. That's a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of roughly 5.7%, the research firm forecast.

Meanwhile, the global refurbished mobile phone market will reach $100 billion by 2029, up from $64.91 billion in 2023, according to Markets and Markets. That's a 7.80% CAGR during the forecast period, the researcher said.

Among the market drivers for refurbished devices: Some customers are seeking cost savings, while others are seeking to reduce e-waste.

Business Background: 3stepIT

Jakob Lagander, CEO, 3stepIT

Most major PC makers offer refurbished laptops. But some of those companies along with channel partners now leverage AI to further inspect and guarantee the quality of refurbished hardware.

True believers include 3stepIT of Helsinki, Finland. 3stepIT’s circular business model allows customers to procure, manage and return their corporate devices after their first usage cycle. 3stepIT then refurbishes the devices and prepares them for their second life in one of its three refurbishment centers in the Nordics, making them available to secondary users, the company says.

3stepIT, backed by more than 500 employees, manages over 2.6 million devices, and operates refurbishing centers in Finland, Sweden, and Norway.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Refurbished Laptops: 3stepIT and Aixia Partnership

On the AI front, 3stepIT partnered with Aixia to launch a tool that further improves and standardizes the refurbished hardware process. Aixia of Mölndal, Sweden, develops IT solutions that address AI and deep learning, data center and management needs, among other things.

In May 2024, 3stepIT launched the AI tool in Sweden refurbishing centers. The AI tool will will surface in Finland and Norway refurbishing centers by the end of 2024, 3stepIT said.

The AI quality evaluation tool analyzes pictures of the devices and data analytics and machine learning to further support the refurbishment process. Beyond identifying potential device damage, the AI tool also quantifies the overall level of wear and tear, generating a standardized quality score, the company added.

In a prepared statement about the AI tool, 3stepIT CEO Jakob Lagander said: “Unbiased evaluation of device quality after their first lifecycle is essential to encourage more businesses to transition to a circular approach for their technology. At 3stepIT, we have led the way in circular technology management for the past 26 years. Today, we are taking an important step to ensure even more peace of mind, transparency and reliability for the businesses choosing our services."

Mattias Bergkvist, CEO, Aixia

Added Mattias Bergkvist, CEO of Aixia: “We thank you for the trust in allowing us to be a part of 3StepIT's innovative development and for the opportunity to deliver the technology of tomorrow, which not only enables but positions 3StepIT as a leader with the help of the new AI technology in their production environment. For Aixia, sustainability and reuse are incredibly important, and with the new AI technology, we enable a new level around this."

AI and Refurbished Lenovo Devices

Meanwhile, Lenovo also is leveraging AI as part of its refurbished device business.

The effort involves AI algorithms, Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, machine learning (ML) and computer vision technology to analyze internal components and detect device issues, the company said.

The AI solution helps engineers to identify faults, find the most effective repair procedures, and select ideal replacement parts—all in real time, the company said. Among the key results to note, Lenovo notes:

  • 116% efficiency boost in average hourly output units;
  • $100,000 annual cost-savings; and
  • 100% of refurbished orders fulfilled on-time.

In a prepared statement, Aaron Zhang, ISSC Reverse, Repair, Refurbish Director at Lenovo, said: “We recognized that AI holds tremendous potential to enhance the efficiency of our sustainable refurbishment initiatives. For engineers, it could help to automate time-consuming and repetitive device inspections and even recommend personalized refurbishment options for customers. And for Lenovo research and development teams, AI promises to deliver faster access to insights gleaned from the refurbishment process.”

As of June 2024, roughly 71% of devices collected by Lenovo are refurbished or re-used for parts, supporting a circular economy, the company said.

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