Technology

‘Smart Cart’ Developer Brings Self-Checkout to the Countertop

New Caper Counter facilitates small-store contactless checkouts
Photograph courtesy of Caper

Caper, a pioneer in computer vision-powered “smart” shopping carts, has a new idea to facilitate smaller shopping baskets.

The Caper Counter is a “plug-and-play” box-shaped countertop checkout it says is optimized for mini-markets and retail stores of less than 10,000 square feet, allowing shoppers to place multiple items for instant scanning and checkout without the help of a cashier. The technology has been deployed in several stores with an unnamed national convenience chain, with additional stores coming soon, the New York-based company said.

“When we heard from retailers, they wanted a cashierless checkout solution to fit their smaller-footprint stores, we developed the Caper Counter with powerful computer vision technology in a plug-and-play format that is quick to deploy without having to retrofit a store,” Lindon Gao, CEO and co-founder of Caper, said in a statement. “Our first product—Caper Cart—was the first to define how technology can achieve a scalable cashierless solution for large-format stores. With the new Caper Counter, we have again transformed the mundane—a countertop—into something seamless and magical for smaller footprint retailers.” 

Caper said the new technology can be quickly installed without a store retrofit or downtime to operations, calling it “the most cost-efficient autonomous checkout technology for stores.” The Caper Counter provides a faster checkout shopping experience to minimize human interactions in the store to keep employees and shoppers safer during the pandemic.

Like its sister shopping cart—now in stores including Canada’s Sobeys chain and additional stores near its New York home market—the counter checkout uses sensor fusion, computer vision and AI technologies to visually detect and identify items placed onto it, and automatically adds them to a checkout bill on an adjoining screen. Shoppers can then swipe their cards directly on the device or use Apple Pay or other near-field communication (NFC) technology to check out.

Caper said the unit requires only a power cord and Wi-Fi password to get up and running in a store. The AI-powered device is ideal for stores smaller than 10,000 square feet and carrying fewer than 10,000 SKUs. 

The pandemic has accelerated consumer demand for convenience, Caper noted, citing Deloitte’s InSightsIQ June report, which said more than 50% of consumers are spending more on convenience to get what they need, with “convenience” increasingly being defined by contactless shopping, on-demand fulfillment and inventory availability.

“Customers want retailers to make things easy for them with a faster and enhanced shopping experience and autonomous checkout is a priority,” said Kathleen Polsinello, managing director and partner with Boston Consulting Group, Toronto, in a release. “In light of COVID and the impact on retailers, cashierless and contactless solutions that can be quickly deployed without significant costs or store renovations are likely to become the winners in the future of autonomous retail.”

Caper said data from its cart and counter systems is helping to develop a software platform that brings the online shopping experience provided by e-commerce retailers to the physical store, with features that guide shoppers such as personalized recommendations, in-store navigation, coupons, digital dietary information and recipes. Caper said its plan to roll out both products and its platform with more retail stores across North America and Europe.

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