- UST, a California-based digital services company, has launched an automated system that uses artificial intelligence, ceiling-mounted cameras and sensors to allow shoppers to leave retail locations without visiting a checkout station, according to a press release.
- The launch of the system, known as UST Walk-In, Walk-Out, follows a test UST conducted with Ahold Delhaize USA at a store operated by the grocer’s services company, Retail Business Services, at its office in Quincy, Massachusetts, starting in 2019. UST also tested its checkout system with an unnamed European retailer.
- UST’s decision to enter the fledgling cashierless technology space puts it up against an array of companies that are angling for the attention of retailers looking to automate the checkout process.
When Retail Business Services began testing the 150-square-foot frictionless store it developed with UST in late 2019, known as "Lunchbox," the grocery operations division said it hoped to sell the technology to offices, college campuses and airports — an approach similar to the one Amazon is taking with its Go store technology, which is set to debut inside Hudson airport retail stores.
Now, UST is taking ownership of the concept, which it's marketing to grocery stores, convenience retailers and other businesses. According to UST, the Walk-In, Walk-Out system can be installed in a retail location in eight weeks. Customers who visit stores equipped with the technology announce their arrival by scanning a QR code in a mobile app, collect items from store shelves and are charged for their purchases automatically.
UST’s approach closely resembles the cashierless technology developed by other companies as demand for a fast, contactless checkout grows. In October, one of those suppliers, Standard, deployed a camera-based system at a college convenience store described as the first retail location in the United States retrofitted with the technology. The store, at the University of Houston, is entirely automated, making it especially well-suited to a busy environment where students typically have little time to purchase food as they rush between classes, according to Chartwells Higher Ed, a division of international foodservice company Compass Group, which operates the facility.
Grabango, another vendor that has developed a cashierless retail solution that relies on cameras to track products in stores, announced in September that its technology had entered commercial service at a Pittsburgh-area GetGo Cafe+Market convenience store run by Giant Eagle.
Zippin, another company that has developed a checkout-free shopping system for retailers, said in December that it had entered an agreement with Fujitsu to distribute its technology in Japan beginning in March. Fujitsu and Zippin have been testing the system with Lawson, a convenience store chain that operates in that country, since February 2020.
Amazon is the most high-profile retailer to introduce checkout-free technology to consumers. The company’s Go and Go Grocery stores use AI-enabled cameras, shelf sensors and machine learning software to permit customers to simply walk out with their purchases. People who visit Amazon’s growing fleet of Fresh grocery stores, meanwhile, have the option of using specially equipped carts that record purchases as items are put in and makes stopping at a checkout station unnecessary.
Other companies that offer similar tech-enabled carts include Caper and Veeve. Caper has also developed an automated checkout unit that sits atop a counter and allows customers to rapidly scan multiple items at once. Rival Mashgin offers such a device as well.