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Unbearably long lines at sports stadium concession stands might soon become a thing of the past if Standard Cognition has its way. The San Francisco-based company this week announced that the Worcester Red Sox, the triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, will be one of the first clients to deploy its cashierless tech at a minor league baseball stadium.
According to Standard Cognition cofounder and COO Michael Suswal, a store stocked with snacks, drinks, and souvenirs near centerfield at Polar Park in Worcester, Massachusetts will enable customers to shop without scanning or stopping to check out. They’ll be able to take what they’d like and walk out without having to contend with turnstiles or sensor-laden shelves, and they’ll pay either via Standard Cognition’s mobile app and the Worcester Red Sox app or in-store cash and credit card kiosks that automatically recognize their purchases when they approach.
The store, which will stay open even when baseball games aren’t being played, is expected to open with the rest of Polar Park’s retail venues in April 2021.
“We are pleased to be the first to introduce this innovative technology at a ballpark,” said Worcester Red Sox principal owner and chairman Larry Lucchino. “We have long sought to reduce time spent waiting in lines in our venues, and Standard Cognition’s autonomous checkout technology will do just that. We look forward to introducing this enhancement at Polar Park and in other ballparks around the country.”
As a refresher, Standard Cognition’s patented platform uses cameras and algorithms to keep tabs on customers as they peruse store shelves. The startup has made impressive headway to date, nabbing $86 million in venture capital and inking a partnership with Paltac in Japan that’ll see its solution deployed in 3,000 stores.
Like Amazon Go, Standard Cognition’s tech adds items grabbed from a display or shelf to a running tab that’s automatically charged to shoppers’ accounts as they exit. The system accounts for mistakes, like when a customer puts back an item they’d initially considered purchasing, and it anonymizes data to minimize the risk of overzealous brands or retailers targeting people’s purchasing patterns.
It’s also capable of preventing shoplifting. Standard Cognition’s AI algorithms can recognize telltale signs of theft from behaviors like trajectory, gait, gaze, and speed, all of which it helpfully flags via text message for store attendants. Learning those behaviors wasn’t easy — the bulk of sample data came from 100 actors who shopped for “hours” in a mock setup — but the result is an accuracy rate that the company claims is 99%.
In September, Standard Cognition became the second company to open a cashierless store in San Francisco, following hot on the heels of Zippin in August. The 1,900-square-foot space at 1071 Market Street lacks a check-in gate — all you need to begin shopping is to check in using the Standard Checkout app — and features dozens of ceiling-mounted cameras, each wired to a networked appliance that performs inference. It’s stocked with snacks, personal care items, and cleaning supplies currently, with plans to expand its inventory over time.
The store serves as a sort of functioning showroom. Standard Cognition is using anonymized data from it to improve its algorithms, and to walk prospective retail partners through live demonstrations. Hundreds of retailers are reportedly evaluating the company’s technology, and several have signed contracts, including two that are deploying in multiple locations with scheduled go-live dates in Q3 and Q4 of this year. Standard Cognition tentatively plans to roll out its platform in 100 stores a day by 2020.
Standard Cognition directly competes with Trigo Vision, which recently inked a deal with Israel supermarket chain Shufersal for 272 cashierless stores and is reportedly in partnership talks with Tesco, and Zippin, which last August became the first company to open a checkout-free store in San Francisco. That’s not to mention Pandora cofounder Will Glaser’s Grabango, which this year began piloting a “no-wait” brick-and-mortar payment experience at a Giant Eagle store. Amazon is the elephant in the room — its Amazon Go locations across the country employ sensors, AI, and smartphones to streamline retail flows — but even Microsoft is said to be working on cashierless store technology.
Despite the competition, Suswal believes Standard Cognition’s market momentum is self-propelling. In any case, its platform will no doubt be bolstered by the January acquisition of Explorer.ai, a seven-person computer vision startup whose technology cuts down the time it takes to map large stores from hours to minutes.
“Standard is committed to helping retailers provide the best and most seamless checkout experience for their customers,” he said. “Working with Larry Lucchino and his team, we have enjoyed creating an innovative, safe, convenient way to enhance the fan experience. We are honored to contribute to the sights, sounds, and smells of the wonderful city of Worcester.”
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