Smart Shelf Start-up Opens Autonomous C-Store At LA Apartment Complex

A kinda sorta digital signage tech startup focused on smart retailing has opened an autonomous micro c-store in Orange County, California that uses a combination of LED ribbon “smart” shelves, payments systems and AI-based computer vision.

Adroit Worldwide Media, the guys behind the AWM Smart Shelf you may have seen at shows like NRF, has opened its first micro-market QuickEats at an upscale apartment complex in suburban LA.

The low contact, cashierless market features products including sodas, water, specialty items like Pressed Juicery juices and coconut water, fresh grab-and-go foods like sandwiches, cheese plates, and fruit, and household items ranging from cleaning products to toilet paper to dog food. The shopping process is similar to how Amazon Go stores work, though this is more the size of those “pantries” you see in hotels.

“When we planned the launch of QuickEats many months ago, we never could have imagined the circumstances our community now faces, as Orange County practices social distancing due to coronavirus,” says AWM Chief Executive Officer Kevin Howard. “We made the decision to open our doors because QuickEats can provide vital food, drink, and personal care items to Nineteen01’s residents in a completely frictionless environment that adheres to the current protocols being requested by OC’s Health Officer.”

Says the company:

AWM Frictionless provides convenience to consumers by allowing them to shop as normal and check out by simply walking out of the store. Customers enter the market through an entry gate using a personalized QR code downloaded from the QuickEats app, available across iOS and Android devices. Cameras placed throughout the store track traffic, and customers are assigned a random, anonymous ID when they begin shopping.

Using deep learning algorithms based on product and positioning data, the AWM Frictionless system then detects when customers interact with products and whether to add or subtract those items from their cart. Upon leaving the store, customers are charged for items they take from the store through their digital wallet and receive a receipt via email or text.

“For the past two years, AWM has been at the forefront of the autonomous retail shopping revolution, and it was only fitting to position our first autonomous store in Orange County, a community we’re proud to call home,” Howard adds. “We’re beyond thrilled to offer an efficient, engaging, and easy experience for consumers while serving as an end-to-end solution that is low cost and quickly implemented for retailers to help them better understand how their customers are interacting with products in real time.”

Built on top of and integrated with any preexisting infrastructure or operations model, cashierless shopping is just one part of AWM’s overall implementation for retailers, Howard says.

The company also offers Automated Inventory Intelligence (Aii®) and anonymous consumer behavior tracking applications that can direct customers to other parts of a store using digital signage, enabling up-to-the-minute advertising and pricing solutions. The AWM solution can be implemented in a wide range of store sizes and formats, from micromarkets to convenience stores to larger-format retailers.

This is interesting. I’m not a retail guy, so I can’t speak to the prospects for this. No staffing makes sense for a shop that might not otherwise be feasible if staff need to be paid, and foot traffic is maybe a two or three dozen people a day.

What I have never liked about this product are the direct view LED ribbons on these things. Aside from the frighteningly expensive super fine pitch SMD, miniLED and microLED products out there, mainstream LED does not look good when shoppers are 12-24 inches away.

Companies like InstoreScreen market LCD shelf-edge ribbons that look exponentially better. With manufacturers like AUO now making LCD strips natively (until recently, conventional LCD panels were cut and rebuilt), that seems a way better-looking option for this sort of thing, particularly for showing information like pricing.