AiFi, a cashierless checkout startup, announced today that it will deploy 330 new and retrofitted autonomous stores globally by the end of 2021.
AiFi is perhaps best known for its NanoStore, a fully automated pre-fab pop-up retail experience packed inside a small building akin to a shipping container. AiFi’s Orchestrated Autonomous Store Infrastructure and Services (OASIS) tech platform can also be used to retrofit existing retail spaces with autonomous capabilities, allowing shoppers to simply walk in, grab what they want and leave. The system charges them automatically.
According to a press release sent to The Spoon, AiFi’s OASIS technology will be powering 330 new autonomous stores that range anywhere between 800 sq. ft. convenience stores to 10,000 sq. ft. grocery stores. The new stores will be primarily located across the U.S. and Europe, with expansion to other parts of the world planned for the future
The COVID-19 pandemic is still raging across the U.S., which could be accelerating the adoption of autonomous or contactless checkout. Fears over the coronavirus have already caused grocery stores to close down salad and hot bars. Automating checkout would remove the necessity of standing in line with other people, limit cashier exposure to the virus, and obviate the need to interact with a payment terminal that lots of other people have touched throughout the day.
To be sure, eliminating the traditional checkout stand would be a huge undertaking, and large grocery chains aren’t exactly nimble when it comes to implementing new technology. Plus cashierless checkout brings up ethical issues around serving populations that are underbanked. Perhaps, however, AiFi will be taking a page out of Zippin’s playbook and only automating part (like one aisle) of a partner’s store rather than retrofitting the entire building.
We won’t have to wait long to see. AiFi says that it is already powering 10 stores in locations around the world including California, Texas, Amsterdam, Paris and Shanghai. AiFi also has partnerships with Albert Heijn, Carrefour, and others it has yet to announce. If AiFi sticks to its schedule, it will be launching an average of 18 stores per month for the next year and a half.