There are so many companies doing cashierless checkout now, to stand out any more, you almost need a hook, something that sets your particular solution apart from the rest. Grabango allows stores to still accept cash and credit card payments, Caper moves the tech into smart shopping carts, Skip is going after convenience stores, and Amazon is… well taking its cashierless tech ball and keeping it all for its own Go stores.
What sets Adroit Worldwide Media (AWM) Smart Shelf apart is that cashierless shopping is just a part of its overall implementation. Sure, the company uses small, high-def cameras to power computer vision algorithms and AI to automatically keep track of what people purchase (and thus, real-time store inventory), but the company ties this commerce with in-store branding and advertising via digital smart displays.
This means when a store implements the AWM system, it not only facilitates the transaction, but it can direct you to other parts of the store through digital signage, which can be used for advertising, running specials, dynamic pricing, or even to make suggestions based on purchase history or what you are currently buying. For example, if you have ground beef and tomato sauce, the digital signage could create an ad on the spot for you saying “it looks like you’re making a pasta dish, we’re having a sale on noodles over in aisle 3.” Because the store knows where you are (for the cashierless checkout), it can also guide you to the location of that pasta.
Additionally, you could upload a recipe to the store’s AWM-powered app and once in the store, the AWM system would guide you around to help you find everything you need.
Like Grabango, AWM also integrates with a store’s existing payment system. So a retailer could go full frictionless (i.e. just walk out of the store), or a store could still accept cash and credit card payments (sidestepping the controversy around cashless retail).
The AWM system works through a combination of a mobile app and facial recognition. AWM’s provides the infrastructure backend for a retailer’s app, so a shopper would download their local store’s app. Once installed, there are proximity sensors that work in conjunction with the computer visions systems to keep track of what you grab and keep. Shoppers can even opt-in for facial recognition, which can provide a sort of two-factor authentication, so someone couldn’t grab your phone and shop with it.
An image on AWM’s site also shows its facial recognition software keeping track of things like gender, ethnicity and emotional state. This type of facial recognition program will undoubtedly throw up red flags for privacy minded folks, rightfully so. I spoke with AWM Smart Shelf CEO Kevin Howard who said that only AWM and the store have the data, which is stored locally and AWM does not have access to your payment information. But one has to wonder exactly what a store would do if it can tell you’re depressed (chocolate on sale!).
While this level of detail about a shopper may be off-putting to some, it hasn’t scared away investors. Howard said AWM raised a $10 million Series A round led by Mark IV Capital roughly a month ago. The company had previously raised $2 million in 2017.
AWM is also going into public implementations starting this summer. Howard wouldn’t provide details, but they are with full-sized stores, three of which are on continents outside the U.S..
AWM isn’t only smart display company looking to keep tabs on you as you buy your Tab (Tab cola, it’s a beautiful drink). Cooler screens made headlines earlier this year with its smart cooler doors that are basically giant displays that can also track your movements, what you’re looking at and yes, even your emotional response to items.
With its ability to not only remove friction from the purchasing process, but also nudge people around a store for even more purchases, AWM certainly stands out. Now we’ll have to see if retailers will line up for it.