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Ahold has a go at cashierless store format

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A major supermarket conglomerate is taking a page from Amazon’s grocery playbook.

Ahold Delhaize USA, which operates supermarket banners including Food Lion, Giant, and Stop & Shop, is piloting a new frictionless store environment. Called “Lunchbox” and developed by the company’s Retail Business Services subsidiary, the format enables customers to scan in, shop, and walk out without having to stop at any type of checkout terminal.

Currently being tested at Retail Business Services’ office in Quincy, Mass., Lunchbox is powered by a Retail Business Services proprietary app that admits shoppers to the store and charges them for purchases. Payment services such as PayPal, Venmo, Apple Pay, and Google Pay are integrated into the app’s wallet. 

Inside the store, artificial intelligence (AI) technology running on Intel Core i5 and i7 processors-based systems optimized with the Intel Distribution of OpenVINO computer vision toolkit detects which products are being removed from shelves in the store, and anonymous body skeletal tracking connects the right products to the right shopper. 

Retail Business Services partnered with digital transformation solutions company UST Global to develop the store. Retail Business Services led application development, technology connectivity and provided food retail operations expertise, while UST Global and its partners provided the AI technology solution and physical infrastructure for the store. According to Retail Business Services, it implemented the solution in six weeks and has successfully completed thousands of shops, with groups of up to 12 in the store at the same time.

“Lunchbox is an easy, fresh shopping alternative,” said Paul Scorza, executive VP, IT and CIO for Retail Business Services. “Once registered, shoppers simply scan in, shop and walk out. It’s that easy. And it offers fresh, healthy options 24/7. You can grab a snack, a salad, fresh fruit or even a carton of milk on your way home.”

In a corporate video, Retail Business Services refers to the frictionless shopping technology as being a more affordable “fast follower” of other pioneers. Presumably this refers to the Amazon Go grocery store model, which eliminates the need for human cashiers, or cash payments. Cameras equipped with computer vision and facial recognition technology, as well as automatic sensors, keep track of the items customers take from shelves. When a shopper is ready to check out, they automatically pay with a registered credit or debit card inside the Amazon Go mobile app.

Amazon currently operates 21 Amazon Go stores across the cities of Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle. Neither Amazon nor Ahold Delhaize USA have publicly released cost figures for their frictionless store formats.

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