Belgian supermarket employs produce-recognizing AI for faster checkout

August 12 , 2019

A Belgian supermarket is testing the limits of how artificial intelligence (AI) can increase efficiency with a cutting-edge system that automatically recognizes fruit and vegetables at checkout.

The supermarket - called Colruyt Lowest Prices - is the first supermarket in the nation to test such technology.

The advance, developed in collaboration with AI business Robovision, consists of a 'deep learning' smart camera, says the Colyrut Group.

Installed above the scales at checkout, the camera can recognize 120 different kinds of fruit and vegetables.

This test takes Colruyt another step ahead in digital progress, it adds.

For three months, co-workers and customers of the Colruyt store will work together to trial how this AI technology can reduce time and increase efficiency at checkout.

How does it work?

When customers put a vegetable or fruit in the scales at the checkout, the supermarket's smart camera takes a picture. Based on this picture, the system can automatically recognize the product on the scale.

Customers then use a tablet to confirm the correct product, explains the group.

Thanks to artificial intelligence, product recognition becomes more accurate as more pictures are added.

Moreover, the first tests revealed that in 97% of the cases, the tablet correctly displayed the product in question.

Colyrut comments that it consciously chose fruit and vegetables as the first products to test the technology on because produce items don't have bar codes.

Until now, the group says its sales employees had to type the codes for fruit and vegetables at the checkout. With AI technology, however, this is no longer necessary.

Now, sales employees can scan other products while the customer weighs his unpacked fruit and vegetables with the camera.

"We have customized the software for Colruyt,” says Jonathan Berte, CEO of Robovision.

"It is nice to see that our expertise in AI found its way to the store. This is a unique partnership with an innovative retailer.

"Moreover, the project is a perfect match with our mission: making AI more democratic."

Testing the AI technology with customers

The group says the first test showed that customers reacted enthusiastically.

They were pleased to use this new technology because they can take an active role in the checkout process, it explains.

But customers can still choose between using the AI system or having a store employee weigh their products at the store.

In regards to the future, the group comments that it doesn't have any plans to extend product recognition to other products yet.

"We are curious and waiting for the test results to find out what this innovative technology can mean for the future," concludes Rudi Dewulf.

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