Shekel weighs in on autonomous retail revolution

According to a report by consulting firm McKinsey, more than 80% of US retail sales in 2020 will still occur within the four walls of a store.

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July 1, 2019 01:51
3 minute read.
Shekel Brainweigh's artificial intelligence-based Innovendi vending machine

Shekel Brainweigh's artificial intelligence-based Innovendi vending machine. (photo credit: SHEKEL BRAINWEIGH)

 
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Even as online shopping continues to grow in popularity, brick-and-mortar grocery store owners are confident that they are here to stay.

According to a report by consulting firm McKinsey, it’s predicted that more than 80% of US retail sales in 2020 will still occur within the four walls of a store. For grocery shopping, the in-store experience of seeing, smelling and touching the food is certainly not something that can be replicated by online platforms.

Even online shopping empire Amazon has issued a multi-billion dollar vote of confidence in the future of main street grocery shopping, acquiring high-end grocery chain Whole Foods and its 500 stores for $13.7 billion in 2017.

While our favorite grocery stores are sure to stick around for years to come, shoppers are increasingly looking for a smoother store experience. Like many industries, retail stores are turning to autonomous technology to reduce costs and increase efficiency.

After developing four decades of expertise in precision weighing, the Kibbutz Beit Keshet-born company, Shekel Brainweigh, is now aiming to shake up the retail market by adding artificial intelligence and IoT (the Internet of things) technology to its field-proven products.

To date, Shekel Brainweigh has established itself as a leader in the weighing industry, exclusively supplying precision scales for GE Healthcare incubators and warmers, and partnering with leading self-checkout developers Toshiba, Fujitsu and Datalogic.

“At Shekel, we have a strong research force and we were one of the first to go from mechanical weighing to digital weighing,” said executive partner Shlomo Talitman. “In addition to developing the digital sensors, we took a group of talented young army alumni who specialized in artificial intelligence (AI), and we included AI in the sensors.”

That combination has enabled Shekel Brainweigh to develop a four-dimension weighing technology called Product Aware Shelf, converting any supermarket shelf into an AI-powered smart shelf that “feels” the products on it. By perceiving the weight and identifying the stock keeping unit (SKU) of products, the shelf can “tell” the retailer in real time which items were picked up, returned, or are out of stock.

“Through four load sensors on the edges of the shelf, we can know what products are on the shelf and where,” said Talitman. “We discovered that every product has its own signature weight distribution. That gives us an additional dimension in identifying the same product on the shelf.”

Shekel Brainweigh, which names former Australian envoy to Israel Dave Sharma as its non-executive chairman, has now extended its technology to create “Innovendi,” an AI-based vending machine offering improved customer experience and increased retail efficiency.

Simply unlock the machine door with a credit card or a smartphone payment application, take desired products, close the door and walk away. Selected products are immediately identified by their weight and paid for. “It’s a small shop. Retailers can sell a lot of products, and more products per person than a regular vending machine,” said Talitman.

For retailers, the machines offer opportunities to extend business opening hours at no added expense, strict control over inventory levels, and increased self-service options for customers. For producers of consumer packaged goods, increasingly facing competition with retailer own-brands, they can now provide a growing variety of products straight to the consumer.

“Innovendi is witnessing great excitement from retailers who are interested in replacing existing vending machines with this technology and retailers who wish to establish 24/7 small, self-service shops,” Talitman said.

Shekel Brainweigh is currently conducting pilots programs with manufacturers in Israel, Europe and the United States. Shoppers seeking convenience can expect to see the technology on Main Street as early as next year.

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