- Caper, a startup that's building smart shopping carts, has raised $10 million in Series A funding, according to a company press release. Caper also closed a $2.15 million round of seed funding earlier this year, TechCrunch reported.
- Caper's carts are equipped with sensors and computer vision, which enables autonomous checkout without requiring a retailer to make any infrastructure changes. The company said its artificial intelligence-enabled shopping carts are a less costly alternative to retrofitting an entire store with cameras and sensors.
- According to the press release, Caper has contracts with some of North America’s largest grocery chains and plans to deploy more than 1,000 smart carts this year.
Although checkout-free stores have become the technology du jour as companies try to catch up with Amazon Go, smart carts haven't seen much action in U.S. grocery stores. This infusion of cash, however, could help Caper scale its technology beyond its current retail partnerships.
What Caper says its smart carts can offer is the ability to eliminate checkout lines with technology that is simpler and cheaper than a fully-equipped checkout-free store. Caper's co-founder and chief technology officer told TechCrunch that its smart carts could cost a retailer in the range of hundreds of thousands of dollars. While pricey, it's still a more affordable option than the $1 million price tag for the hardware needed for the Amazon Go store in Seattle.
Caper may also have an advantage because it doesn’t have much competition, with few other companies publicly sharing efforts to design smart shopping carts. Startup Focal Systems also introduced smart carts but hasn’t unveiled any major retailer partnerships. In South Korea, LG partnered with supermarket chain E-Mart to build self-driving shopping carts.
The smart cart maker said it will use its newly raised capital to expand its team and fulfill "rollout pipelines with mega-retailers." This is an important step for the startup to prove whether it can scale its technology to benefit retailers broadly. While deploying 1,000 carts this year shows growth, it’s a mere fraction of the millions of shopping carts that are used in the U.S.
The company didn’t immediately respond to Grocery Dive’s request for comment about the retailers its working with or what the funding means for the company, but according to Engadget, Caper's carts were available at two stores in New York as of January. Gala Fresh Farms, Brooklyn Fare and Met Fresh Market are a few of the retailers listed on the company’s website.
To use it, customers scan an item on the cart, place it inside and checkout when finished directly on the cart. The technology doesn’t require an app download, and shoppers can completely skip the checkout line. The carts also offer recommendations to shoppers based on their baskets, according to Caper's website.