How Trigo Vision could help retailers compete with Amazon Go

As the start-up’s ‘retail automation platform’ enters Israel’s leading supermarket, CEO Michael Gabay talks to Food Spark about the accuracy of the technology and how the benefits go beyond just speeding up checkout.

13 November 2018

Slow checkouts are a major irritation for consumers. In fact, a survey of 4,000 shoppers by retail consultancy firm Newton found that delays at the till was the single biggest bother for customers. So it’s no surprise that retailers have been trying to figure out a way to solve the problem.

Back in March, the Co-op announced it was trialling pay-in-the-aisle tech at certain stores, allowing consumers to scan their purchases and checkout via an app. Sainsbury’s toyed with a similar innovation in August, beginning with a London outlet, while Tesco has an ongoing experiment at its staff shop in the Heart Building at Welwyn Garden City.

Hovering over all these efforts is the spectre of Amazon Go, which offers a much more sophisticated (but expensive) system that allows consumers on the shop floor to pick items off shelves and then simply leave. A network of cameras and sensors tracks customers during their visit and charges their registered card as they exit the store.

Already available at test sites in Seattle and Chicago, it has been speculated that Amazon is scouting out stores in the UK where it could install the technology.

Hoping to even up the score, Israeli start-up Trigo Vision emerged from stealth in July, revealing it too had developed the ability to provide customers with a comparable checkout-free experience. Using “a highly sophisticated, ceiling-based camera network with machine vision algorithms,” the company says it can “capture customers’ shopping items with exceptional levels of accuracy.”

Founded by people who worked on projects for Israel’s military intelligence, Trigo Vision has been designed with flexibility in mind, as the company targets retailers around the globe looking to match Amazon Go’s proprietary technology. It also claims to require far fewer cameras than Amazon’s version, while also being compliant with privacy laws.

Today, Trigo Vision revealed its first major client: Shufersal, Israel’s largest supermarket chain, which will roll out the “advanced automated retail platform” across its entire estate of 272 stores.

“Customer satisfaction is one of Shufersal’s main guiding principles with technology playing a big role. We believe our cooperation with Trigo will transform the shopping experience and will minimise our customers' friction points in the stores,” said Itzik Abercohen, CEO of Shufersal.

“This venture will also drive efficiency and minimise costs across our operation. Its scalability and flexibility also means that we can roll out this technology across all of our stores, whether small express shops or larger hypermarkets.”

Thanks to the tie-up with Shufersal, Trigo Vision will soon have a distinct advantage over competitors: insight into the challenges of installing checkout-free shopping across a retailer’s entire portfolio on a large scale.

As CEO Michael Gabay noted: “This deal will accelerate our development in a real-store environment with real customers rather than trialling our technology in a concept store or lab development. We strongly believe this is the right approach to develop cutting-edge technology that brings value to customers.”

So how accurate is Trigo Vision? And what applications does it have beyond replacing the traditional checkout? Food Spark spoke to CEO Michael Gabay to find out.

Has Trigo Vision evolved since coming out of stealth?

Michael Gabay

We have doubled our R&D team and keep growing super fast. Our platform accuracy level has reached our goal of 99.5%.

We also signed our commercial agreement with Shufersal for deployment of our platform across their almost 300 stores of various sizes. This is the first supermarket outside the USA to announce its stores will go cashier-less.

We are in advanced discussions with top retailers worldwide, including running an active POC [proof of concept] with a top EU retailer.

How is Trigo Vision’s technology different from Amazon Go?

Trigo Vision is not competing directly with Amazon Go, as Amazon is building their own stores.

Trigo Vision is going into existing retailers to offer an Amazon Go-type experience. However, the way we identify the products, the customers and the carts is different and unique. We use only basic cameras, unlike other providers that use very expensive cameras and hardware in significantly higher numbers.

We have focused our solution on enhancing the software by leveraging deep learning and AI in creative ways to develop super high-fidelity computer vision tracking and a unique data collection process. For example, there are retailers that use cameras for CCTV and discover a theft only after it happens. Trigo alerts stores in real time when a theft is occurring, as the platform tracks the entire store.

Amazon Go customers need to download an app and register at the entrance of a store. Trigo Vision offers flexible payment solutions to accommodate cultural differences, including the ability to confirm shopping lists before a customer leaves the store, pay by card or cash, and with or without an account or app.

As well as providing customers with a seamless shopping experience, what other benefits can retailers reap from the technology?

Retailers gain complete flexibility and scalability. Unlike Amazon Go, retailers don’t have to change their structure or layout of the store, or build entirely new infrastructure in order to offer the same seamless checkout experience.

Retailers benefit by a significant reduction of shoplifting, for example by identifying strange behaviour and sending real-time alerts to the store manager, gaining invaluable insights into how shoplifting is carried out in the stores to come up with new methods and strategies to minimise theft. This will create colossal savings for many grocers.

Furthermore, the solution provides invaluable data and retail intelligence on buying behaviour, product placement and shopping habits. It’s like having an (online) heat map but for brick-and-mortar stores, with real-time insights for the first time ever, rather than relying on second-hand research.  

Retail automation also drives operational efficiency across core business functions to minimise costs and allows retailers to optimise in-store real estate with the removal of checkout and space for queuing.

You’ve said in the recent press release that the deal with Shufersal “will accelerate our development in a real store environment” – what further development do you hope to achieve with Trigo Vision?

Computer vision and AI is a complex business, and we believe that facing those challenges with real data coming from real stores vs. a lab or a concept store is the right approach to bring highly accurate and scalable solution to the market.

With the development in a real store environment we hope to improve accuracy levels further, accommodating various parameters that exist in real stores, such as the layout of the store, aisles spread, lighting conditions, amount of SKUs, loose items, small items and many other challenges that have to be solved in order to operate a full commercial store.

Beyond Israel, what other countries are you targeting for Trigo Vision expansion in the near future?

Shufersal in Israel is the first full commercial deployment for Trigo Vision. We are also running several trials in with leading retailers globally, which we hope to expand on in the near future.

We are currently not limiting our expansion to a specific country or geolocation. Our goal is to find the right partners who are ready to be the market leaders and bring this revolution to their customers.

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