Standard Market is officially the first cashierless store in San Francisco. They have partnered with a start-up known as Standard Cognition, which has raised $11.2 million in venture capital and is using Standard Market as a prototype of sorts to work out any bugs and to showcase the new technology to customers. But they are not the only cashierless store in our future.
Standard Cognition, the start-up, has formed partnerships with four retail chains around the world. They have the ambitious goal of opening 100 stores a day, every day, until the year 2020. Out of the seven founders, five of them come out of the Securities and Exchange Commission, where they built artificial-intelligence software to detect fraud and trade violations. Now, they are applying their expertise to cashierless grocery store theft.
The idea works like this: Artificial intelligence software paired with a wide array of ceiling cameras will track and analyze a shopper’s movements and potential suspicious behavior. Shoppers will enter the store, take their items and leave without stopping off at a cashier. But not before the cameras and AI track what the shopper took, charge their credit card (inputted into the app that they will have to download beforehand) and then provide them with a digital receipt on their smartphone.
It’s catching on
In January, Amazon opened its first cashierless AmazonGo market. They plan to open 3,000 stores in the near future. China also is experimenting with cashierless-style stores, which abound there. The stores in China track biometrics (things like facial scanners) while Standard Cognition relies on things like movements, speed, stride length and gaze of shoppers to analyze whether they are suspicious. If found “guilty,” a text will be sent to a shop attendant who will then approach the shopper and intervene in their illicit behavior.
The goal is to allow shoppers to skip the cashier but also to predict and prevent shoplifting. Without preventing shoplifting, the cashierless venture would fail. After all, Standard Market has an open door and the path is clear for theft. “We learn behaviors of what it looks like to leave,” said Michael Suswal, Standard Cognition’s co-founder and chief operating officer. Trajectory, gaze and speed are especially useful for detecting theft, he said, adding, “If they’re going to steal, their gait is larger, and they’re looking at the door.”
A few days before Standard Market reopened with their brand new Standard Cognition prototype, the entire system was tested by 100 actors who pretended to shop there for four hours. The idea behind this was to gather data on shopping behaviors, habits and what theft looks like.
Recently, the store was opened to the public. A bouncer stood at the opening to the store and let one shopper in at a time so they could fully absorb the automated experience. Before entering, people downloaded the Standard Cognition app and inputted their credit card numbers.
But the machines aren’t working perfectly, either. At least, not yet. Yoshimasa Takahashi got one over on the machine. When he left, it said that he had bought noodles and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. Only, he hadn’t bought the Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. “I was playing with it but didn’t take it out,” Mr. Takahashi said, smiling at his win over the tech. He got a refund. Another shopper was charged for one bag of popcorn when he had actually taken two bags. “That shouldn’t happen,” Suswal said. And yet it did.
Cashierless stores are in our future. In order to be successful, they have to be able to prevent theft. Another concern is whether cashierless technology could hurt the American labor force. There are nearly 5 million retail sales workers in America at present. Suswal said he believes that this kind of system, even if widespread, would not hurt the labor force. It would just replace cashiers and re-allocate them to other positions in the store.
Although a promising technology, the bugs still clearly need to be worked out. The future of the cashierless store is not fully here yet, but the technology likely will improve. And more than likely, it will improve soon.
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