Bloomberg has a story up today about the Portugal-based startup, Sensei, titled “Amazon Go Faces Unlikely Challenge From Checkout-Free Startup.” The headline caught my eye because it isn’t unlikely at all, in fact, it’s quite likely. While Amazon has a substantial headstart in getting cashierless stores to market (10 and counting), Bezos’ behemoth faces all kinds of technological challenges from companies big and small in the checkout-free space.
As a quick refresher, cashierless checkout stores are retail environments that allow the shopper to walk in, grab what they want and leave without standing in a checkout line. Some combination of high-tech sensors and cameras keep track of what you buy and charge you automatically. Different companies have different approaches, some of them more advanced than others, but here’s who’s out there right now:
Caper: Rather than installing cameras and sensors in the store, Caper shifts that technology to its smart shopping carts, so retailers don’t have to spend a lot of money to retrofit their locations. Current versions of the cart require the user to scan items, but they’ve said computer vision is coming to make recording what you put in your cart automatic. Caper has raised $3 million raised and says it is in use by two major unnamed grocery store chains.
DeepMagic: Rather than scaling up, DeepMind scales down to create unattended kiosk shopping experiences that are meant to live inside existing locations (think: Hotel or office lobbies). Even these mini, mini shopping stores will face off against Amazon, as the company is reportedly looking to shrink Go stores to fit inside offices to feed hungry workers. DeepMagic is self-funded and has been used by Cisco to sell swag at one of its conferences.
Grabango: A relative newcomer to the cashierless space, Granbango came out of stealth earlier this year. It uses lots of tiny smartphone camera-sized cameras mounted on the ceiling to saturate its computer vision field and keep track of purchases. Grabango’s hook is that it integrates with the store checkout system, so when shoppers are done, they can still pay with a credit card or cash without a cashier scanning each item. Grabango has raised $17.3 million and says it is in pilots with three major grocers and one convenience store chain.
Microsoft: Microsoft isn’t one to let a cross-town rival like Amazon dominate a market without putting up a fight. But right now we’ve only heard reports of the Redmond giant working on cashierless tech with Walmart (another Amazon rival). Another clue that Microsoft cashierless tech could be forthcoming is its recent partnership with Kroger to pilot a new type of tech-forward, smart stores.
Sam’s Club: The Walmart-owned Sam’s Club opened up an experimental store last year, which requires the use of Walmart’s Scan & Go app to pay for items.
Skip: Similar to Sam’s Club approach, Skip is another small entrant in the cashierless space that is targeting convenience stores. Shoppers download and use the Skip app to scan and purchase items in the store. Skip is currently iN use in several western convenience store chains and has raised $5 million in seed funding.
Standard Cognition: While Standard Cognition has its own working store in San Francisco, it’s mainly there to showcase its cashierless chops. Standard Cognition’s website makes a big deal about it not using facial recognition and being built around privacy. The company has raised $51 million in funding and says it has agreements with four retailers across Asia, North America and Europe.
Trigo Vision: Israel-based Trigo Vision retrofits existing stores with off-the-shelf cameras and computer vision to create its cashierless experience. The company has raised $7 million, is in a pilot with an unnamed European retailer and last November signed a deal with Israel’s Shufersal to implement checkout free shopping across all of that chain’s 272 locations.
V7 (formerly AI Poly): We haven’t covered this company fully here at The Spoon yet. AI Poly recently rebranded its retail efforts as V7, and now uses AI Poly for vision AI for the visually impaired and blind. The V7 website says its AI system can plug into and work with existing security cameras, depending on the number a store operates.
7-11: The convenience store chain’s tech works more like a self-checkout than true grab-and-go retail. In the pilot store the company launched towards the end of last year, shoppers use the 7-11 app to scan items and then manually pay for them at separate checkout stations.
And now we can add Sensei to this list. Are there any others we’re leaving out? Any stealthy ones you want to spill the beans on? If so, drop us a line and let us know!