Standard Cognition: Are AI grocery stores the future?

Online Shopping (Photo by Peter Vo)

Picture this: You walk into your local convenience store to grab some of your favorite candy, a pack of gum, and some iced tea. But then, you change your mind on the candy and decide that a nice muffin would fit that craving. You’re almost ready but then change your mind again and grab that candy bar, after all. Now you might be thinking, so what? What has this got to do with anything? Well, imagine instead of going to the cashier to ring up your items, you could just walk-out and the charge would automatically go through your phone without you having to do anything. How, might you ask? Standard Cognition has programmed their cameras to use item identification software that can detect what products you grab, put back, grab again, and so on, and sync those straight to your phone wallet through an application without any action on your part. 

Crazy, right? As for facial recognition, which can be a worry for some people and government bodies, they don’t need to use any. The cameras solely identify the product and the actions taken upon the product. In fact, CEO and co-founder, Jordan Fisher, explains that with their data, companies will get irreplaceable data that records consumer habits on whether their product was picked up and put back down, and what product that same consumer picked up instead of their product.

Standard Cognition is already making waves and it is only three years old, getting its start in 2017 out of San Francisco, CA. They use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to modernize grocery shopping for established brick-and-mortar retailers through a retrofit model. In the last three years they have raised $86 million from investors after completing their Series B round of funding, with some of their board members including, Devdutt Yellurkar of Charles River Ventures, Inc., Alastair Mitchell of EQT Partners AB, and Gary Tan of Initialized Capital Management LLC, as well as investors from Y Combinator. 

They are private, for-profit, and are made up of around 100 employees. They have made three acquisitions, including Checkout Technologies, DeepMagic, and, collected six trademarks and 23 registered patents, and have a deal to create an “autonomous checkout store” at the Worcester Red Sox new venue set to open in April 2021, on top of their already established convenience store titled, “Standard Store” in San Francisco with their technology actively being tested. Through their acquisitions and partnerships, their goal is to journey into the international scape, especially Japan, to share their technology, which can be particularly beneficial in a COVID-19 world.

Their strongest competitor is the retail giant, Amazon. They launched their Amazon Go team around the same time Standard Cognition was founded. However, the Amazon Go technology costs $1 million to establish and it is not meant to be retrofit or to be used by their brick-and-mortar competitors. Furthermore, they use scanner technology with hundreds of cameras and scanners throughout the stores, versus Standard Cognition’s few cameras that use item identification.

What would this mean for retail employees? Well, their jobs would be obsolete if stores became completely automated. However, this is not going to happen for a while and there will still be a need for human intervention in the beginning, and the possibility for humans to answer questions until we all become adept in solely engaging with robots. 

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