Will all retailers soon go cashier-less?
After reportedly five years in development, the first Amazon Go opened in January, raising speculation over the practicality and adoption rate in the industry of cashier-less stores. Last week, a start-up said it is getting ready to deliver the “first scalable checkout-free solution” suitable for mega-retailers and affordable for mom and pops.
Describing itself as a “computer vision technology,” AiFi’s founders previously worked for Google and Apple on projects like 3D Touch and Google Glass.
Using AI (artificial intelligence) algorithms, sensors and camera networks, AiFi’s checkout-free technology will track shoppers as they move through the store, recognize shoppers as individuals and secure payment through a companion app, much like the tech used at Amazon Go.
AiFi could save shoppers billions of hours waiting in lines while offering retailers improved inventory management data as well as valuable insights into consumer shopping habits and product preferences. According to the company, the technology aims to provide a “comprehensive understanding of shopping behaviors and gestures (even identifying abnormal gestures), and the ability to identify people who are shopping together as a group.”
AiFi promises to be able to track up to 500 shoppers and “tens of thousands of SKUs.” The technology, which will be available via a subscription, also doesn’t require any major retrofitting. With little reliance on hardware, the AI costs are expected to scale to make it accessible to small stores.
According to TechCrunch, the company is planning to outfit a demo store in the San Francisco Bay area along with conducting a pilot with a larger grocer in New York that will open by the end of the year. The company has so far received $4 million in seed funding.
Said Steve Gu, CEO, AiFi, in a statement, “The shopping experience now demonstrated and widely promoted by Amazon is just the tiniest taste of what the AiFi technology will do for retailers — with shops that range from tiny to huge.”
While AiFi said AI should free up cashiers to do more creative tasks, many articles covering the introduction discussed the possibility that jobs would be lost. Also explored were the tradeoffs of privacy consumers would make in exchange for avoiding checkout lines. Wrote Rhett Jones for Gizmodo, “Have fun being followed by personalized ads and never having to interact with a stranger again.”
- AiFi Creates First Scalable Checkout-Free Store Technology to Empower All Brick-and-Mortar Stores to Upgrade, Innovate and Remain Competitive – AiFi
- AiFi emerges from stealth with its own take on cashier-free retail, similar to Amazon Go – TechCrunch
- AiFi replicates Amazon Go’s checkout-free shopping in any store – Engadget
- Cashier-Less Shopping Startup Takes Aim at Amazon Go With System ‘Orders of Magnitude Bigger’ – Gizmodo
- Amazon Go goes live – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Does it make sense that the underlying technology behind AI that supports cashier-less stores would be highly scalable? What advice would you give to big and small retailers should the technology come within reach?