One big trend in evidence at CES was autonomous tracking, used for everything from security to shopping. The start-up Aipoly (terrible name!) is developing a system for stores that is “fully” autonomous. Consumers walk into the store, take items from the shelf, and then leave the store without ever using a checkout line or interacting with a human clerk. The system scans inventory every 50 milliseconds; customers are charged through an account they set up on their app.
It got a lot of attention at Eureka Park (the startup zone), maybe because it had a big monitor with futuristic, Minority Report-style tracking on each person that walked by the booth. It wasn’t clear what the lines on everybody’s bodies were about, but it looked cool…
We talked to the principals and the biggest problem is going to be theft. If the consumer doesn’t have an app, there’s nothing to stop one from walking into the store, taking products off the shelf, and then leaving the store without paying! Executives told us that the installations are currently in test where theft isn’t expected. This immediately made me wonder about a new kind of digital redlining in the offing?
It’s an interesting idea – Amazon Go has been in this space for about a year. There are also B2B applications in warehouses and distribution centers.
It’s really an analytics play built on an “AI” platform. It will give companies a lot of information on how long products are staying on shelves, who buys them, etc. The company claims that the platform will be able to learn consumer preferences so that stores can adjust the product mix. Expect the app to push notifications telling you what shelf your favorite product is sitting on. They are also developing an AR piece to the app – just point your camera phone at the product to learn more about it.