The COVID-19 pandemic and its disrupting effect on the retail sector have accelerated some in-store technology trends like biometric checkout and scan-and-go systems.
The new trend that is emerging now is the drive to look for solutions to distinguish fresh produce—like fruits and vegetables—as they tend to perish fast, and basic AI systems are not always designed for such fine distinctions.
In the U.S., companies like Amazon are responsible for pioneering many AI-based automation solutions. For example, the company behind the first cashierless shops has recently launched the Amazon Fresh store chain with a bigger grocery offering and a greater emphasis on product freshness.
These stores utilize AI-based grocery product recognition technology that eliminates the need to scan each perishable item individually, reduces the check-out hassle, and minimizes customer contacts.
Relevance of such in-store solutions is also increasing in Europe. PIXEVIA—a store automation technology provider whose product recognition system now powers Europe’s first cashierless grocery store—is one of the pioneers in the field.
“There are many challenges involved in developing a fully functional and robust grocery product recognition system, especially when we’re dealing with ‘fresh’ category goods,” said PIXEVIA CEO Mindaugas Eglinskas.
“For example, many algorithms fail to distinguish between similar-looking fruits—such as oranges and persimmons. Also, since most fruits and vegetables have a very limited shelf-life, there is always the risk of failing to control the food inventory and creating a lot of food waste,” he said.
“Therefore, a market-ready system has to track shopping trends, generate precise sales forecasts, and issue discounts autonomously. Given these challenges, we have tested our product meticulously in our PIXEVIA Smart Store in Vilnius Old Town and have arrived at a fully functional grocery recognition system,” said Eglinskas.
Inside PIXEVIA Smart Stores
While the primary focus for PIXEVIA team was initiating PIXEVIA Smart Stores, the interest to develop transferable AI technology for retail locations primarily bigger than 150 square meters across Europe became the main focus.
“Our AI-based system successfully recognizes different fruits, salads, bakery goods as well as meat and dairy products, allowing customers to forgo the long and often arduous check-out process” said Eglinskas. “In addition to that, it is continuously monitoring product freshness.
“In case a product is approaching its expiration date or showing any signs of staleness, the dynamic pricing algorithm alerts the store manager that the product has to be sold at a lower price and later if necessary taken out of stock,” he said.
The system issues discounts by analyzing the data pertaining to the previous consumption trends as well as weather patterns, said Eglinskas. This way, the in-stock goods are maintained fresh and safe to consume, as well as sustainable consumption is secured.