This shopping cart knows what you’ve bought

Foodstuffs trials NZ AI tech
  • Stuart Corner (Computerworld New Zealand)
  • 14 February, 2018 09:26

A Foodstuffs retail outlet in Auckland is to become the first retailer in the world to trial New Zealand-developed artificial intelligence technology that will identify items placed in a shopping trolley solely on the basis of image analysis.

The technology, Smartcart, has been developed by Auckland-based AI company, IMAGR.

To use the technology shoppers will need to download an app to their phone and link this to their chosen account to pay for the goods.

They then pair their smartphone with the shopping cart and as they add products to their cart the items appear in their phone’s virtual basket.

Smartcart also applies machine learning technology to identify the patterns in a customer’s behaviour and make suggestions for recipes as well as guiding users around the store, based on their product choices.

IMAGR says Smartcart can also help the retailer with inventory management, cost reduction and analytics, and it is “working on effective ways to deliver tailored promotions to customers as they shop.”

It has yet to announce when Smartcard will be available in the Foodstuff’s store, in the Auckland suburb of Ellerslie.

Smartcart is the brainchild of IMAGR founder William Chomley who, IMAGR says, “started conceptualising a solution two years ago to improve convenience and help eliminate the frustration that comes with queuing at the checkout.”

Since then, the company says it has grown to a team of 12, with AI specialists from around the world working on the technology from its Auckland headquarters.

According to a blog post on the web site of graphics technology company NVIDIA, Smartcart uses the company’s Titan X GPU and the TensorFlow deep learning framework,.

“IMAGR initially trained its algorithms on images of grocery store products. Next, it used the SmartCart video camera to learn to recognise products put into or removed from the cart — say you reconsidered that half-gallon of chocolate chocolate-chip ice cream over a second bunch of kale. Finally, the team trained the algorithm on barcodes to learn prices,” the blog post says.

In November 2017 IMAGR received a significant investment from Sage Technologies Ltd to progress Smartcart towards the testing (beta) phase.

IMAGR said at the time that it had come to the attention of Sage Technologies, the technology venture of private investment company QuantRes founder Harald McPike, four months earler. Sage’s Dubai based head of investment strategy, Michael Boocher, was appointed to the company’s board.

The company says that, while Foodstuffs is the first retailer in New Zealand to pilot Smartcart, momentum is building globally and it in talks with retailers in Australia, the United Kingdom, Europe and America, aiming for significant user-adoption at three of the world’s leading retailers by 2022.