US supermarket chain Giant Eagle is piloting a checkout-free shopping and payments system that uses a network of cameras and sensors to let customers enter a store, select and place items in their shopping basket as normal, check out from their mobile phone and then simply walk out of the store.
The retailer, one of the 20 largest grocery chains in the US, is working on the project with checkout-free technology startup Grabango.
Grabango’s technology is designed to be retrofitted to existing stores, both small and large, and does not require customers to scan items as they shop in order to add them to their shopping basket.
Instead, the system combines a network of sensors “unobtrusively located above the shopping area” with patent-pending computer vision and machine-learning technology to automatically track the items placed in a shopper’s basket.
“The location of all products whether on the shelf, in someone’s basket or with a shopper leaving the store” is continuously monitored, Grabango says.
“Shoppers enter the store, select the items they want and exit the store with little or no checkout line.”
A running tally of each customer’s shopping is created as they move through the store and shoppers can then choose either to check out on their mobile phone, enabling them to then simply walk out of the store without visiting a cash desk, or visit a checkout desk to pay “without the need to unpack every item onto the conveyor belt”.
The technology is similar to that used by autonomous vehicles, Grabango says, but is “much more reliable”.
Restricted items, such as alcoholic beverages requiring ID verification, are handled via “shopping exception” flags. Here, “the shopper and cashier are both alerted so the exception can be cleared, in this case by the shopper showing her/his valid picture ID”.
Giant Eagle has 474 retail outlets, ranging in size from 3,000 sq ft GetGo convenience stores to 100,000+ sq ft Market District supermarkets. That range of formats makes the retailer’s stores “an ideal proving ground”, says Grabango CMO Andrew Radlow.