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When you go grocery shopping today, the only reason you might even pay attention to your cart is because of a bum wheel that is either stuck or keeps turning around and around as you push it up and down the aisles.
But given the pace of announcements lately, there’s a good chance that when you go grocery shopping later this year, you might notice your shopping cart has a touchscreen, or a ring of cameras, or that it automates the checkout process for you.
In other words, your shopping cart is getting smart.
There is a wave of companies developing cashierless checkout systems by moving the entire process to your shopping cart or basket. Caper, Veeve, Tracxpoint, Storewide Active Intelligence, Imagr, and a scrappy young startup called Amazon.
Some systems use computer vision to recognize items, others use a barcode scanner, but these smart carts all basically do the same thing: keep track of the items you place in them and automatically tally up your bill for you to pay when you exit the store.
The use of smart carts can be appealing to retailers for a number of reasons. The COVID pandemic has grocers looking for ways to reduce human-to-human interactions. Smart carts could not only remove cashiers from the checkout equation, they might also free up cashiers for other labor, such as picking and packing, which is needed to keep pace with the growth in online grocery shopping.
For the shopper, smart carts can create a more frictionless experience because you don’t need to stand in checkout lines. And smart carts equipped with touchscreens can serve as revenue generators through new advertising and promotional space, as well as present recipes and guide customers through stores.
But smart carts can also be an easier way for retailers to get into automated/cashierless checkout because there is no retrofitting that needs to happen with existing stores. Cashierless checkout solutions from companies like Zippin and Grabango require the installation of cameras and sensors in stores, which can be time consuming and costly. A smart cart just requires the buying/leasing of new shopping carts.
Smart cart adoption got a shot in the arm this week when we learned that grocery giant Kroger is testing out Caper’s smart carts at a location in Cincinnati, Ohio. The KroGo carts feature a touchscreen, barcode scanner and built-in scale to weigh fresh items. There’s no app to download or account to set up, and KroGo users get their own separate station for a speedy checkout.
Caper’s announcement follows a story we wrote last week about New Zealand-based Imagr, which is bringing its smart baskets to Japanese retailer H2O.
And of course, Amazon is rolling out its own smart Dash cart tech as it expands its real world grocery empire.
There’s still a ways to go before smart carts scale up to become an everyday occurrence, but expect to see more smart cart pilots roll out with different grocers throughout this year.
Now if only these smart carts could fix those bum wheels.
The Kitchen Robots of CES (and Food Tech Live)
Is it just us, or was CES a little lacking this year? I mean, it’s totally understandable, given the pandemic, that fewer hardware companies would race to announce/show off a product for a show no one is physically going to. It’s just that normally we’re up to our eyeballs in new gadgets, gizmos and smart appliances this time of year.
That’s not to say there was nothing worth noting at this year’s CES. Spoon Founder Mike Wolf rounded up the kitchen robots that were at the show the year, including:
Moley – The high-end, full robotic system with an articulating arm that you basically build your kitchen around.
Oliver – The countertop single-pot device that you fill with fresh ingredients and it does the rest.
Takumi – From Yo-Kai Express, the Takumi countertop device that automatically re-heats and re-constitutes containers of Yo-Kai’s frozen ramen.
Samsung Handy Bot – A robot that does the dishes and pours you a glass of wine? Sign us up.
Hopefully the world returns to normal this year, so we can get back to the craziness of being in person for CES next year. Or maybe we’ll just have to send robots in our place.
UK Researchers Kickstart a New Project to Study and Fight At-Home Food Waste Behaviors – Researchers will examine consumer behavior around food waste both during and after lockdown periods in the UK, and use those findings to develop new ways to help consumers fight food waste and change their behaviors in the home.
Spanish Government Funds BioTech Foods’ Cultured Meat Project – The project will investigate the health benefits of cultured meat, and determine if cultured meat lacks the common health concerns associated with animal meat, such as increasing the risk of high cholesterol and certain cancers.
Controlled Ag Company AppHarvest’s First-Ever Crop Arrives at Grocery Stores This Week – The Morehead, Kentucky indoor farm clocks in at about 2.76 million square feet, and AppHarvest says the facility is expected to produce about 45 million pounds of tomatoes annually.
Glovo Lands Real Estate Deal to Expand Its Ghost Convenience Stores – Stoneweg will build and refurbish these real estate locations in key Glovo markets to help the delivery service expand its reach with these delivery-only convenience stores.
Dragontail Systems and Pizza Hut Deploy Pizza Delivery Drones in Israel – The delivery drones won’t be dropping pizzas off at people’s front doors, however. Rather, they will fly pizzas to remote designated landing zones where delivery drivers will pick them up for last mile of the delivery.