Amazon is still tinkering with the checkout-free technology behind its Amazon Go retailer concept, but Palo Alto, Calif. startup Standard Cognition is moving to the front of the line, releasing an “alternative” technology with a similar goal of eliminating the checkout process that it will supply to retailers.
The startup, part of Y Combinator’s Summer 2017 batch, today embarked on the initial launch of its artificial intelligence-based system that lets consumers shop and pay without stopping to check out. The company bills its technology as a way for retailers to cut labor costs by eliminating cashiers, better use store space, track inventory and protect against theft.
The company said it is in “advanced talks” to set up pilots of its technology with several retailers. The technology uses machine vision and artificial intelligence to identify each item and detect when items are picked up, put back or left somewhere else in the store.
It works with a pair of apps, one for the shopper and one for the store. All shoppers have to do is open the app, check in, grab their stuff and leave. The bill will be charged to the app. Those without the app will be directed by store staff to automated kiosks, similar to self-checkout stations, where they can pay with cash or credit.
The store app tells staff where customers are in the store and what they are buying. The system tracks shoppers, so if someone is trying to pocket items and walk out without paying, the technology uses “predictive path finding technology” to alert store employees.
The checkout-free Amazon Go concept, using similar technology to that of driverless cars, made waves when the company announced it last year. It has been in beta testing since then, with a planned public launch of early 2017. Reports indicate that Amazon has had some trouble with the technology, delaying its public debut.
“We saw the need in the market for a better commerce solution for brick-and-mortar retailers that would leverage the latest AI technology to help them dramatically cut costs, get better analytics, get insight into inventory and shrinkage, and improve the checkout experience for their customers,” Michael Suswal, co-founder and chief operating officer of Standard Cognition, said in a statement. “It seems other companies have delayed their launches because of technical glitches caused by using out-of-date machine-learning techniques.”
Amazon isn’t the only retail giant looking at automating the checkout process, a move that could fundamentally shift the retail industry and have a significant impact on jobs. Walmart earlier this month debuted its “Scan & Go” app, which resembles a manual version of Amazon Go.
Amazon Go and Scan & Go are, at least for now, in-house technologies whereas Standard Cognition is offering its tech for retailers of all kinds.
“For 99 percent of retailers who don’t have the resources to deal with lost profit margins from cashier overhead, product theft and shrinkage, they are going to go out of business,” Suswal said. “We want to help retailers both small and large thrive and eliminate the cumbersome, expensive checkout experience as it exists today.”
Suswal, the company’s COO, and CEO Jordan Fisher both did stints at the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission. Several of the co-founders worked together at Pwnee Studios, a New York computer game studio.