Last month, retail solution platform Standard Cognition pioneered San Francisco’s first cashierless public grocery store in partnership with grocery chain Standard Market. The pilot store allows the company to test and refine its cashier-free checkout technology, said Michael Suswal, Standard Cognition’s co-founder and COO.
Standard Cognition offers a product called Standard Checkout that retrofits cashier-based grocery stores into cashierless systems. Currently a team of about 35 people, Suswal’s business is growing using a wave-based strategy. For wave one, which involves four client partners, the company hopes to launch its first stores in the first or second quarter of 2019. The process of selecting Wave two partners has just begun.
Unlike the new cashierless Amazon Go, Standard Cognition is not a grocery chain itself, but instead a solution for chains that compete with Amazon Go, Suswal said. “We’re not really competing against Amazon Go at all,” he added.
Standard Cognition operates on the premise that “there are millions of stores out there already, why don’t we just create a system for them,” Suswal said. Because of this, the stores will look and operate more like traditional grocery stores.
In addition, customer privacy is at the heart of Standard Cognition’s mission. “We use no biometric data and no facial recognition, (so) really you can go to the store and we can never know you were there if you are paying with cash or credit card,” he said.
When a customer walks into the store to shop, that person has two purchasing options. For the first option, customers can use the Standard Cognition app to “check in,” after which they shop normally. “When you’re done, you just leave,” the COO said.
If customers do not want to use the app, they can pay for their items using cash, credit, or any other traditional payment method at a kiosk at the front of the store. The kiosk can be any device with a screen, like a tablet or a machine previously used for other purposes, and the screen will show the customer her purchases and the total charge, Suswal explained.
In contrast, shoppers in an Amazon Go store have to scan their phones at entry gates in order to access the store. In the first Seattle Amazon Go, the shopping area itself is laden with thousands of cameras and sensors, Suswal said. “That’s okay for Amazon, because they’re designing their own store experience,” he added.
“They are building stores around technology that they have, (while) we built technology for stores that already exist,” he said. As a result, Standard Cognition’s store has just 27 cameras, which allows for a more traditional shopping experience. Retailers can move shelving, set up sale and sample tables, and change the store layout without major technological issues. This makes the solution relatively cheap, flexible, and fast to deploy, Suswal said.
The Standard Cognition technology was designed to answer three major questions: “Who is who,” “what is what,” and “who has what,” Suswal said. The cameras needed the ability to track individuals through time and space, while at the same time identifying the objects handled by consumers and whether those objects are store products or items brought into the store. For example, if a customer is carrying a water bottle, the system needs to be able to accurately decide whether the water bottle is a store product or whether the consumer brought it into the store.
Opening the first physical store gave Standard Cognition the opportunity to refine its system’s ability to answer these questions. “We opened the store … to get more understanding of how people actually shop,” Suswal said. “That’s been very valuable for us,” and “the system gets stronger every week,” he added.
“We are able to focus on the data where the system dipped in its confidence at times” and then have an engineer train the system to address the areas or behaviors causing the confidence dips, Suswal said.
In fact, the company has found the retail business itself to be more challenging than the technological growth aspect. “Retail is really hard. … When we opened the store, San Francisco made us take three fourths of the products off our shelves because we didn’t have all the permits to sell potato chips and things like that,” Suswal said.
Standard Cognition also offers two other products. The first, Standard Analytics, allows retailers to analyze customer choices and provides “e-commerce level data for the physical world,” Suswal said. The second, Standard Security, is a loss-prevention system aimed at addressing theft and preventing any financial, medical, or violence related issues.
Anna Kramer is a staff writer at Street Fight.