AiFi announced today that its technology is powering a new cashierless checkout store in Shanghai. According to an email sent to The Spoon, the 4,000 sq. ft. store carries 2,000 SKUs including fresh meat and snacks, and is the largest such store powered by AiFi’s technology.
AiFi is perhaps best known for its standalone, shipping container-sized NanoStores, which offer pop-up cashierless retail experiences. With today’s launch, the company is showing that its technology can scale up (at least a bit) and be used for larger-format stores. The new AiFi-powered store in Shanghai is a “hybrid” store that also features a human cashier should shoppers prefer that option.
Casherless checkout allows shoppers to walk into a store, grab what they want and leave, getting charged automatically upon exit. The global pandemic has accelerated interest in cashierless checkout retail experiences because they help reduce human-to-human interaction, and can also cut down on the amount of time shoppers spend inside a store. Fellow cashierless startup Zippin announced yesterday that it has partnered with Fujitsu to bring its technology to market in Japan.
Unlike Zippin, which uses a combination of shelf sensors and computer vision for its cashierless checkout solution, AiFi relies solely on computer vision to track shoppers as they move through a store. Those computer vision capabilities could soon get a boost, thanks to a recent investment in the company from Qualcomm Ventures, the venture arm of the chip giant. As we wrote at the time of the fundraise:
That a Qualcomm entity would invest in AiFi isn’t too surprising. AiFi’s stores rely on a lot of wireless technology, and the startup’s pitch is that it creates a faster retail experience by producing shopping receipts in real time. But Qualcomm is also moving more into computer vision, which is a cornerstone of cashierless checkout. In July, Qualcomm announced a chip cluster that adds machine learning and AI to mid-tier cameras. So investing in a company that gets that tech into more locations makes sense.
And AiFi is certainly looking to get into more locations. AiFi says it has partnerships with top grocery chains in the U.S., Europe and Australia. Earlier this year, AiFi announced that it was going to deploy 330 new and retrofitted stores around the world by the end of 2021.