So far, 2018 is shaping up to be the year of the automated checkout.
After Amazon Go kicked things off in January with its greatly anticipated Seattle launch, this year has yielded a steady trickle of headlines heralding the next development or competitor in the cashier-less checkout movement.
Now, two new Bay Area startups are bringing their camera-and-sensor-driven store systems to market to provide retail outlets with budget-friendly alternatives to Amazon Go.
Like many of the players in the red-hot automated checkout space, both venture capital-backed Zippin and Inokyo’s technology seem to be designed—or best suited for—the small spaces and inventory holdings of the convenience-store format. Zippin’s pilot testing a San Francisco market store packed with drinks and grab-and-go consumables for consumers who download its Android or iOS app.
Consumers scan an in-app QR code to commence their shopping experience and from there, overhead cameras track their movements throughout the store by recognizing body shape and clothing, and not facial recognition, founder Krishna Motukuri told Fast Company. In contrast to the camera-riddled set-up in Amazon Go, Motukuri said the average-size bodega at around 1,000 square feet would require just 15 cameras.
Zippin’s goal is to sell its software technology that provides image recognition and inventory management, with retailers installing their own camera hardware, though a full-service solution would run as much as $25,000.
Like its peers, Inokyo requires an in-app QR scan to start shopping but also has shoppers scan again upon exit, largely to assuage consumers feeling like they may be stealing, co-founder Tony Francis told TechCrunch. Inokyo’s Mountain View, Calif., beta shop hawks typical corner-store snacks and drinks that are monitored through computer vision and weight-sensitive sensors that detect when items are removed from or put back onto a shelf. Customers receive a digital receipt detailing their charges after leaving the store.
TechCrunch said Inoyko is debating whether to sell its solution to retailers, build its own network of stores or serve as a test shop for brands to improve their product positioning through customer data insights.
In July, Israeli tech firm Trigo Vision raised $7 million and emerged from stealth to bring its checkout-eliminating technology to market. At the time, CEO and co-founder Michael Gabay said in a release that the company was already in talks with supermarket chains about Trigo Vision’s technology and planned to use the investment to “develop additional novel applications to our tracking technology, driving in-store operational efficiency and customer engagement even further.”
Automated, cashier-less checkout has performed well in small environments, but the real challenge will come when companies attempt to scale to the size of larger, big-box stores where interference can pose an issue and the sheer number of cameras, sensors and more can become cost prohibitive.