With the ongoing coronavirus crisis and accompanying social-distancing concerns demanding more contactless food shopping options, an unmanned, self-service grocery “microstore” opened in California’s Orange County this week ahead of its original schedule.
The store, dubbed QuickEats, uses proprietary computer vision technologies and artificial intelligence to track movement of shoppers and goods in the store, allowing shoppers to walk in, take what they want from shelves, walk out and pay using an app in the style of stores such as Amazon Go.
Sources anticipate that the COVID-19 crisis could accelerate development and customer acceptance of nascent automated concepts in retail, ranging from robotic microfulfillment centers to “just walk out” shopping options.
The store is the first of its kind using Adroit Worldwide Media’s AWM Frictionless technology. AWM, a vision technology company specializing in retail applications based in Aliso Viejo, Calif., is also known for shelf-edge technologies in use in U.S. supermarkets that can monitor inventory, manage marketing content and provide shopper data.
The store is in the lobby of a residential building known as Nineteen01 in Santa Ana, Calif., and covers just 108 square feet. A spokeswoman told WGB the store carried about 215 SKUs, including beverages; fresh grab-and-go foods such as sandwiches, cheese plates and fruit; and household items ranging from cleaning products to toilet paper and dog food.
“When we planned the launch of QuickEats many months ago, we never could have imagined the circumstances our community now faces as Orange County practices social distancing due to coronavirus,” AWM CEO Kevin Howard said in a statement. “We made the decision to open our doors because QuickEats can provide vital food, drink and personal care items to Nineteen01’s residents in a completely frictionless environment that adheres to the current protocols being requested by [the county’s] health officer.”
QuickEats will serve Nineteen01’s tenants from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.
Cameras placed throughout the store track traffic, and customers are assigned a random, anonymous ID when they begin shopping. Using deep-learning algorithms based on product and positioning data, the AWM Frictionless system then detects when customers interact with products and whether to add or subtract those items from their cart. Upon leaving the store, customers are charged for items they take from the store through their digital wallet and receive a receipt via email or text.
“For the past two years, AWM has been at the forefront of the autonomous retail shopping revolution, and it was only fitting to position our first autonomous store in Orange County, a community we’re proud to call home,” Howard said. “We’re beyond thrilled to offer an efficient, engaging and easy experience for consumers while serving as an end-to-end solution that is low cost and quickly implemented for retailers to help them better understand how their customers are interacting with products in real time.”
AWM said its solution can be implemented in a wide range of store sizes and formats, from micromarkets to convenience stores to larger-format retailers.