Auckland-based software company Imagr has signed a deal with one of Japan's largest retailers to roll out its smart shopping software to its network of stores.
H20 Retailing Corporation, which owns and operates department stores, supermarkets and shopping centres throughout Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe, will roll out Imagr's technology throughout its supermarket business from May 2020.
The deal marks the first time the company has commercialised its technology, used to "create the same experience" as unmanned Amazon Go stores.
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The technology dubbed SmartCart uses artificial intelligence and cameras built into a shopping trolley or basket to scan products. It adds each item to a real-time receipt displayed through an app, connected to the checkout, so items do not have to be scanned manually upon checkout.
"Where we differ to something like Amazon Go is that we don't have thousands of cameras in the roof, and don't have weight sensors shelves, which means for a retailer we don't change any of their operations," William Chomley, Imagr founder and chief executive, told the Herald.
Imagr first trialled the technology with local supermarket operator Foodstuffs last year.
Chomley would not disclose how much the deal with H20 Retailing was worth. The company has been working on the software since 2017, though the idea came about in 2015 after a earlier version of similar technology failed.
Most of the company's competition is based in the United States, but Chomley said that would not deter Imagr from working to launch in that market.
"People like to shop a lot more frequently, they tend to buy less more often, and that's where SmartCart comes in, providing convenience to get people in and out faster.
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"At the moment we're in discussions with some New Zealand, European and US retailers, our plan is to get a hometown hero store up and running, and then focus on Japan, and breaking into Europe," he said.
Chomley said the technology would also be used to combat the issue many retailers in Japan face - struggling to staff their stores due to an aging population.
Retailers throughout the world are increasingly moving towards a more automated physical shopping experience. Shoppers in places like Japan, China and South Kora are familiar with automation and smart technology at play within stores, though this is yet to make its way to New Zealand.
Chomley believes technologies that automate the physical retail experience would become mainstream in New Zealand stores within the next 18 to 36 months.
"Retailers are now competing with e-commerce, and looking to bring the online experience of frictionless checkout into the offline."
Imagr has raised $3.5 million in investment since its inception in 2017.