Cashierless grocery chain installs Axis equipment for surveillance and more
September 10, 2022 By Neil Sutton
A 24/7 cashierless grocery chain is utilizing a security infrastructure not only for surveillance but to enhance operations.
Toronto-based Aisle 24 operates 16 stores across Ontario and Quebec, with plans to open additional locations in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Halifax. Expansion to the U.S. and overseas is also on the horizon for the company.
The store locations are entirely personnel-free — patrons unlock the front door via a phone app, conduct their grocery shopping, then scan their own purchases at a checkout kiosk.
“A cashierless retail operation is very different than a traditional operation. We have to communicate via digital channels to our customer base,” said John Douang, co-founder and CEO of Aisle 24, who responded to questions via email.
“The obvious advantage is that we can operate 24/7 with relatively low on-site labour costs. Our target customers enjoy the blend of digital versus physical and it is what they are expecting in an experience like ours,” he added.
For store locations, Aisle 24 is utilizing a security set-up comprising Axis Communications surveillance cameras with ACAP (Axis Camera Analytic Platform); Axis audio technology for music streaming and announcements; and 2N audio/video intercoms.
The equipment is being installed by Toronto-based systems integrator Smart Installs. The firm recommended Axis equipment for the deployment “because of their open API and custom automation capabilities. That’s mainly what drew us to them,” said Ken Oki, managing director, Smart Installs.
“Having Axis devices in these stores really is a jumping off point for anything that Aisle 24 may want to do in the future,” added Jason Chiu, professional services group manager, Canada, Axis Communications.
The surveillance cameras are continuously monitored and footage is time-stamped, leading to a quick resolution for any loss prevention investigations, said Oki. Aside from the obvious security advantages, the cameras also provide valuable data that can be used to improve store design and customer experience.
People counting and heat mapping tools allow store operators to identify the most popular spots in the store and arrange displays accordingly. The software is also useful for managing store capacity — particularly during the pandemic. The cameras aren’t being used to monitor stock levels yet, but that could be an added feature in the future.
“We are working on multiple enhancements in partnership with Axis and other third parties to enhance the experience our customers have,” said Douang, “but also to make our operation processes more efficient.”
Douang added that spill detection technology may be utilized in stores “to help our operators deal with health hazards more efficiently.”
These types of applications are becoming much more common with surveillance technology, said Oki. “The biggest mental shift for a lot of customers is that you can do more with these cameras now,” he said. “They can actually make you money instead of costing you money. [They’re] used to build revenue and for marketing capabilities.”
“A lot of retail clients globally are using our cameras as machine vision devices,” said Chiu. “They’re doing a lot of their own in-house analytics as well as using Axis’ and our partners’ analytics… More and more, we’re finding a lot of our devices are being used for service optimization, quality optimization and operational improvement.”
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