By Elton Gomes
If you’re bored of standing in long lines while paying for your groceries, you might want to hear the artificial intelligence (AI) powered Watasale supermarket in Kochi that allows you to pick whatever you want and leave.
Based on Amazon Go, wherein customers can shop without checking out at cash counters, the Kochi startup aims to bring a similar experience to Indian customers. The store uses a combination of AI, camera technology, and sensors that enable it to operate 24 hours of the day while being unmanned.
How does the supermarket work?
Shopping at the Watasale supermarket is almost the same as shopping in a normal supermarket. Customers enter the store by scanning the QR code on Watasale’s mobile app. Once inside the store, you can choose the products that you require. The only difference is that after you pick an item from the shelf, it will be added to the cart existing on your mobile app and it will be billed.
How do you pay for products?
After you’ve selected whatever you need, on your way out, the amount will be debited online from your credit/debit card or mobile wallet linked to the app. This is made possible with the installed sensors and the AI powering the store.
What if you want to replace an item?
In an instance wherein you’ve already been billed for a product, but no longer want it, you can simply keep it back on the shelf from where you took it, and the bill will be revised accordingly. Customers can check items in their cart in real time, and can simply pick the items and leave after they have finished shopping.
What are its advantages?
A store like Watasale can have several advantages for customers. For instance, it lets users know which items are and are not available in the store – thereby allowing you to prepare your grocery list accordingly. In addition, the stores generally do not take up a lot of space, this could mean that multiple outlets can be opened to ensure a seamless shopping experience.
Talking to the New Indian Express, Rajesh Malamal, CMO of Watasale said “Unprecedented data is available to give complete insights on store inventory. Stock and stock-outs get updated instantly. Customers know whether the product they want is available, even before walking into the store. They need not leave their bags behind, and shoplifting is also not possible,” the Better India reported.
AI and the supermarkets of the future
As the presence of AI increases in other sectors, it seems that supermarkets of the future will focus more on the consumer. A major change that could be soon witnessed is the absence of human employees in any supermarket. A prototype of a supermarket in Shanghai already beckons the future.
The prototype has no staff, no registers, and the entire structure has been built on wheels so that it can drive itself to a warehouse to restock or to a customer to deliver a package. The makers of the prototype are confident about its futuristic design as it is both mobile and far cheaper to build and operate than a typical store. More importantly, it could help in bringing food to rural areas.
AI will also change the face of grocery shopping as it could be equipped with better inventory visibility and advanced sensors. AI could get a grip on perishable items, and automation could help stores dynamically re-adjust orders based on demand. This could help in reducing the amount of food that goes into landfills.
Another area where AI could be useful is in gaining a deeper understanding of customer data – really getting behind context and intent, AI could break down customer shopping and purchase decisions. Grocers can use AI and machine learning to parse consumer data to gain exceptional insight. This could help in coming up with offers targeted to particular groups of individuals.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius.