Standard Cognition today inked a partnership to pilot its cashierless checkout technology in a Circle K store in Phoenix, Arizona. The Circle K location’s existing fixtures, lighting, inventory management systems, replenishment processes, and store layout will remain the same post-retrofit, and customers will have the option of paying via an app or with cash and card at a kiosk or cashier counter.
Standard Cognition says it will also work with Circle K to design user experiences that “balance operational efficiency, shopper satisfaction, and financial optimization.” Assuming all goes well, the companies will expand deployment to other undisclosed Circle K locations around the U.S. Standard Cognition notes in a press release that Circle K parent Alimentation Couche-Tard operates over 14,500 stores worldwide.
The Circle K collaboration comes after Standard Cognition installed its technology at a grab-and-go convenience store in Polar Stadium. The startup has made impressive headway, nabbing $86 million in venture capital and cementing a partnership with Paltac in Japan that will see its solution deployed in 3,000 stores.
“Autonomous checkout is the most potentially disruptive innovation the retail sector has seen in decades. The future of autonomous checkout will be driven and defined by AI-powered ‘retrofit’ of existing stores powered by camera-based AI technology,” CEO Jordan Fisher told VentureBeat via email. “Over the last few years, Standard has had conversations with most of the major retailers about moving to frictionless, autonomous checkout. The recent global pandemic has hyper-accelerated interest in our platform, as retailers scramble to deliver contactless, touchless experiences across their stores.”
Standard Cognition’s platform uses cameras and algorithms to keep tabs on customers as they peruse store shelves — without using biometric data (e.g., facial images) or physical shelf sensors. Like Amazon’s eponymous Amazon Go concept, the tech adds items grabbed from a display or shelf to a running tab that’s automatically charged to shoppers’ accounts as they exit. Standard Cognition’s system accounts for changes, like when a customer puts back an item they initially considered purchasing, and it anonymizes data to minimize the risk of overzealous brands or retailers targeting people’s purchasing patterns.
In September, Standard Cognition became the second company to open a cashierless store in San Francisco, following on the heels of Zippin in August. (Standard Cognition’s store briefly closed when San Francisco’s shelter-in-place order went into effect in March, but it reopened in May with a modified layout in accordance with San Francisco Department of Health social distancing and sanitation guidelines.) The 1,900-square-foot space at 1071 Market Street has only two on-site employees and no check-in gate, and it features dozens of ceiling-mounted cameras, each wired to a networked appliance that performs inference. It’s currently stocked with snacks, personal care items, and cleaning supplies, with plans to expand its inventory over time.
The store serves as a sort of functioning showroom. Standard Cognition is using anonymized data from the location to improve its algorithms and walk prospective retail partners through live demonstrations. Hundreds of retailers are reportedly evaluating the company’s technology, and several have signed contracts. Before the pandemic, Standard Cognition tentatively planned to roll out its platform in 100 stores a day.
Standard Cognition directly competes with Trigo Vision, which recently inked a deal with Israel-based supermarket chain Shufersal for 272 cashierless stores and is reportedly in partnership talks with Tesco and Zippin. 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. Even Microsoft is supposedly developing cashierless store technology.
Despite the competition, Standard Cognition believes its market momentum is strong. And its platform will no doubt be bolstered by the January acquisition of Explorer.ai, a computer vision startup whose technology reduces the time needed to map large stores from hours to minutes. More recently, Standard Cognition acquired Milan-based Checkout Technologies, which was developing an AI-based touchless checkout solution.