Computer Vision at the Grocery Store: Amazon Versus Trigo
by Adam Pease
This last week, new developments were afoot in the world of computer vision for retail. Amazon, a major provider, and Trigo, a new market entrant, both revealed news about their seamless checkout solutions, which utilize computer vision to streamline the experience of buying groceries. This blog reviews Amazon and Trigo and considers what these announcements portend for computer vision more broadly.
Amazon’s Checkout-Free Grocery Store
On June 17th, Amazon launched its ‘Just Walk Out‘ service for the first time in one of its fully-stocked Amazon Fresh grocery stores. Just Walk Out enables shoppers to skip the checkout line by utilizing a computer-vision-driven product recognition system that automatically charges users for products that they take off shelves. The system marks the first time this kind of computer vision application has been rolled out at scale for everyday consumers.
Obviously, there are tremendous advantages to the Just Walk Out for an average shopper, who may now be able to save precious time that could have been spent stuck waiting in a checkout line. In the wake of a pandemic where many can recall grocery lines that stretched around street corners, Amazon’s announcement is well-timed.
Trigo on the Horizon: Privacy-Focused Intelligent Retail
While Amazon upgrades its large grocery stores to move past check out, smaller market players are using computer vision to try and disrupt the industry as well. One provider, Israel-based Trigo, recently secured $10M in investment from REWE group, a chain of German grocery stores, and Viola Growth. This puts Trigo at over $100M funding, and follows promising partnerships with other large, European grocery retailers.
Like Amazon, Trigo relies on computer vision to facilitate seamless checkout. However, unlike Amazon, it places more of an emphasis on a unique customer privacy solution. Rather than depending on biometrics such as face or touch identification, Trigo anonymizes users through a random identification number that keeps them trackable but conceals identity. The provider also goes to lengths to blur faces in recording, and does not store customer data.
Trigo faces challenges addressing a market that is already being heavily chased by major providers like Amazon, but its existing partnerships give it a leg up. It remains to be seen whether the imprimatur placed on privacy will be enough to distinguish providers like Trigo, but it is doubtless that consumers will become more and more aware of these concerns as computer vision continues to transform many fundamental aspects of our lives.
Elsewhere, we have written about emerging use cases for computer vision in fields like medicine or insurance. But retail is one area where we can expect to see continued growth. The convenience factor of skipping check out should not be underestimated as a driver of consumer adoption, and it suggests there may be other ways computer vision could streamline basic activities.
Computer vision for retail is heating up. We can expect to see more market entrants like Trigo as the attractiveness of solutions like seamless checkout becomes harder and harder to deny. For now, we will have to wait and see which provider comes out on top of the retail grocery market.