The fear of contracting the coronavirus in 2020 has led people around the world to opt for contactless payments over cash. And in some retail outlets, they went further and removed the cash registers altogether in order to exclude contact between customers and staff, as well as to avoid crowds. In particular, in the Kroger supermarket in Madeira, Ohio, they began to use “smart carts” instead – while in test mode.
The implementation of the technical part was entrusted to the startup Caper, which presented the first developments in this direction back in 2019, in the Sobeys store in Oakville, Ontario. The Kroger retail chain, in turn, has experience in creating a remote delivery service for purchases, plus a joint project with Microsoft on digital labeling of shelves and goods in the sales area. A new program called KroGO integrates all previous technologies.
The idea is that the cart itself is the one-stop shop employee. Using the built-in tablet, she will tell you where the product is located, answer basic questions, and show advertisements for new products. The selected product is weighed on the scales integrated into the trolley, and the computer vision system identifies it and adds it to the shopping list. Right there at hand there is a card reader for accepting payment, and for moving such carts in the store, a separate path and exit is organized so as not to interfere with other customers.
This system is positioned as a competitor to Amazon Go and compares favorably with it in that it does not require to equip the trading floor with dozens of cameras and sensors. On the other hand, a lot depends on the loyalty of the customers themselves, who can easily cheat the cart. Therefore, they are forbidden to put personal belongings in it, they cannot take the carts outside the hall, and in this way they cannot buy specific goods, such as alcohol and medicines.