Woolworths' plan to combat self-service checkout theft
Woolworths is introducing a new technology that will soon make it impossible for shoppers to enter cheaper fruit and veggies when scanning fresh produce at self-service checkouts.
The supermarket has enlisted Sydney-based startup Tiliter to install AI-enabled scales that automatically detect the type of fruit or vegetable weighed – the technology promises to tell the difference between products from the same family such as Red Delicious, Pink Lady and Royal Gala Apples.
Currently trialled in Pitt Street Metro, Metcentre Metro and MetroGo Strawberry Hills stores, the system is reserved for Woolworths' Scan&Go checkouts – a technology allowing customers to use their smartphones to scan and pay for items.
Scan&Go was launched in September 2018 and is now offered at 10 stores across Sydney, with customers able to scan and pay for products with their smartphone as they walk through the store before tapping off at a dedicated kiosk in the self-serve area.
Woolworths GM Digital and Payments Paul Monnington said the technology was about improving the customer experience for those using the Scan&Go app, with plans to expand the trial at a later date.
"We know the two-step scanning process with loose fruit and veg isn't quite as seamless as scanning pre-packed goods on the app," he told nine.com.au.
"We'll keep a close eye on customer feedback and scan accuracy before determining our next steps with the technology."
Tiliter co-founder Martin Karafilis said the technology, currently used by many retailers in the US and Europe, would help to improve the shopping experience, while also cutting down on theft at self-service checkouts.
"In a self-service scenario, it can limit the ability of shrinkage from fraud, but the main focus is improving the speed customers transactions are going through," he told nine.com.au.
"We're super excited as we've done do a lot of work across Europe and US, but Woolworths is a massive play for us."
Melbourne robotics firm black.ai is another Aussie company running trials of its technology across supermarkets in New South Wales and Hong Kong.
The company's system, testing in several unnamed supermarkets, claims to be more proactive, with the technology coming into play the second a customer takes a product off the shelf.
"Black.ai's autonomous supermarket platform maps and monitors the state of your store in real-time using a small number of discrete 3D sensors built into the ceiling space," explained the company.
The sensors and cameras create a log of the products the customer selects, and this information is input into the checkout at the time of purchase.
"Our distributed decision-making stack maintains a virtual 'cart' for each customer, reliably detecting and tracking all product interactions," it explained.
"Large-scale installation takes days, and immediately provides you with customer data of unprecedented depth."
Last year, Coles also attempted to combat self-service checkout theft by installing tablet-sized cameras on top of its self-service checkouts in up to a dozen supermarkets across Victoria.
The cameras are installed directly above the self-service monitor, with every move made at the checkout broadcast back to the shopper and recorded on file.