A new technology firm aims to give grocers a less expensive smart cart option that lets shoppers skip checkout lines while also offering in-store digital promotions.
Based in Tel Aviv, Israel, WalkOut has developed an autonomous end-to-end checkout platform that retrofits grocers’ existing carts to turn them into smart carts by using cameras, computer vision and machine learning to identify when items are added and removed.
Founded by three friends with a wide range of technology expertise, WalkOut taps into the growing trend across grocery retail for more self-service options with what co-founder and CEO Assaf Gedalia said is a cost-effective plug-and-play solution.
As retailers like Amazon and Kroger test out smart carts in their stores, WalkOut is betting that a less bulky and expensive version will entice retailers into trying out the increasingly popular technology. Gedalia declined to note the unit price for a WalkOut solution. In a news release, the startup noted that its solution is considerably less expensive than the $5,000 to $10,000 price range for fully outfitted smart carts cited by Sylvain Charlebois, a professor at Canada’s Dalhousie University who has researched the technology.
WalkOut's kit includes cameras, a base with a touchscreen, a processing unit and battery. Grocers can retrofit their carts themselves, but Gedalia recommends grocers use the full service that WalkOut offers, including installation and ongoing maintenance and support.
“WalkOut delivers very high accuracy — we're above 99%” because cameras are positioned at different angles to identify products, Gedalia said, noting that the solution also works on two-tiered carts.
As shoppers walk through the store, WalkOut keeps track of what is getting added and removed from the cart, showing the items and their prices on the touchscreen.
“You see everything you bought by weight, by price ... If you identify a mistake, you can delete it. You can call for help,” Gedalia said. “Everything can be sorted out on screen. You can add products. You can change quantities.”
For weighted items like produce and bulk products, shoppers have to use separate scales, which are often placed in their corresponding departments, that print off barcodes for the unit to scan. If a shopper tries to place an item in their cart that hasn't been weighed, a message will pop up on the screen saying it needs the barcode scanned and won't let customers leave the store until it is, Gedalia said.
When ready for checkout, shoppers have a few options. The system can transfer either by wireless communication or a QR code the list of scanned items to self-checkout or traditional checkout stations. Shoppers who want to skip the checkout lane can pay using their e-wallet or with their credit card on the retailer’s app by scanning the QR code. The unit doesn't allow shoppers to swipe or insert their credit cards.
Real-time digital promotions and suggestions
The technology "walks" with shoppers through the store and transmits data to the retailer about what’s inside the carts. With this real-time visibility, WalkOut unlocks new opportunities for real-time product recommendations and promotions, which are currently in the beta phases, Gedalia said.
“There's a gap of knowledge today between the customer entering a store until the customer exits," Gedalia said. With WalkOut, retailers can analyze shopper data, push out promotions and suggestions on the touchscreen, and see whether or not shoppers accept them.
“Imagine that you're walking in an aisle, and we can give you a promotion that's based on your location, but that's just scratching the surface,” Gedalia said. “We can see that you have a few products that can be part of a recipe — maybe we can offer a recipe. Maybe we identify that you're cooking dinner. Maybe it's an event you'd like wine with.”
The touchscreen can also provide store navigation and supplementary product information.
To save stores's internet bandwidth, WalkOut uses edge computing, which allows for low latency: “We don't send video streams from dozens or hundreds of carts to the cloud ... Everything gets handled on the cart.”
"It's a very powerful tool [and] a very valuable tool for the retailers to understand what's going on and to help impact the customer's decisions."
co-founder and CEO, WalkOut
WalkOut plan to eventually retrofit handheld shopping baskets with its technology and also expand beyond the grocery industry to other types of retailers like drugstores and home improvement stores.
“We want to sell to the largest retailers in the world, which we're piloting with already … Once this is done successfully, we will start expanding what we do,” Gedalia said.
WalkOut is piloting with eight major retailers across the U.S., Europe and Israel, Gedalia said, declining to provide names. Gedalia predicts that retailer partners will likely add the system to roughly 30% of their carts initially and then scale up to 50% and then to 80%.
The company recently completed a funding round of $2 million, which included Ariel Maislos, who has also joined the board at WalkOut, and Ehud Weinstein, co-founder and chairman at Tensera Networks, which develops artificial intelligence technology. Nielsen and Israeli food distributor Leiman Schlussel also invested in the company.
“It's a very powerful tool [and] a very valuable tool for the retailers to understand what's going on and to help impact the customer's decisions," Gedalia said.