Startup technology company AiFi, has developed a scalable checkout-free grocery shopping system that is very similar to Amazon Go’s. This new system is available to a variety of retailers including grocery stores, supercenters and smaller stores.
Similar to Amazon Go stores, AiFi’s innovative technology uses computer vision and artificial intelligence to track the behaviours of shoppers in store and charge them accordingly. AiFi’s co-founder and CEO Steve Gu, along with his wife and co-founder Ying Zheng, started AiFi in 2016. Both Gu and Zheng used to work for Google and Apple before launching their company.
AiFi’s technology works with the security cameras in retail stores so minimal setup is required. The system is programmed to not only track the purchases of shoppers but their behaviours as well. AiFi is able to recognize returning customers and their regular purchases along with the average amount of money they spend in store. The program also checks inventory levels in store so that retailers can know in real time what’s working and what’s not.
According to Gu, AiFi will launch their system in a 50,000 square-foot demo store that belongs to a popular retailer that the company has not yet disclosed; the store is set to launch later this year in New York. AiFi plans on expanding their reach to other locations with this major retailer in the future as well.
Like Amazon Go, customers will need to use an app on their phone so that the system can track them individually. Payment information is also stored inside this application. The program is designed to use a combination of technologies, including facial recognition, and is able to store information on the types of poses that individuals make when picking up an item. It can even catch shoplifters in action.
The only setback to AiFi’s technology is the cost of implementing the system. However, Gu expects the overall cost of their services to reduce in the coming year.
“The whole camera module might cost below a hundred bucks by early next year,” Gu said. “The nice thing about AI in general is that it doesn’t require a fancy lens or fancy hardware components in general,” he said.
However, because the system provides ongoing updates, AiFi will be charging a subscription fee associated with the continued use of their technology. The company is also looking into providing their own customer payment system so that they do not have to link their system to third-party processors.
With Amazon Go’s popularity threatening the grocery space, it is likely that other grocers will become interested in check-out free stores. At the launch of the first Amazon Go store, there were lines out the door which is indicative of the growing consumer interest in innovation and convenience. As Amazon gears up to introduce as many as six more Amazon Go locations this year, grocers are likely to notice their success.
“More than 90% of last year’s retail sales came from physical stores yet Americans spent at least 37 billion hours waiting in line, which is considered the top frustration among shoppers,” said Gu. “Convenience is key if stores want to grow and drive business. Our solution helps stores run more efficiently and provides customers with a better shopping experience. Run in, grab what you need and continue on with your day. Easier for shoppers and more insights and real time statistics for stores so they can better serve their customers and manage overall operations.”
AiFi has already received $4 million in seed funding since their launch in January 2016, with support from investors such as Stanford StartX Fund, Plug & Play, Greylock, Amino Ventures, Oriza Ventures, CSC Ventures, AngelPlus Ventures and private sponsors.