First Autonomous Retail Store in Germany Taps Smart IoT, AI, and Vision

A German-based startup brings cashless retail technology to a local organic market. Rife with artificial intelligence, computer vision, and deep learning technologies, the goal is more than consumer convenience; the founders aim to develop more sustainability to neighborhood stores.

Image credit: Autonomo

Shoppers in Hamburg, Germany can buy groceries at their local mini-mart, and all they need is a smartphone. Germany’s first cashless grocery store, called Hoody—a nod to the word “neighborhood”—integrates cutting edge technology along with its local products and organic provisions. The concept was developed by Autonomo, a German-based, Harvard startup backed by Pegasus Tech Ventures.

To shop at Hoody, consumers must create an account and register a mobile number and payment card on the store’s smartphone app. To enter the premises, customers log into the app and scan a QR code on a reader at the entrance.

Autonomo mobile app

Image credit: Autonomo

Scan In, Walk Out, Pay Via App

The store is brimming with artificial intelligence-enabled sensors and cameras, and weight-sensing shelves. Computer vision technology tracks what items customers place in their basket or bag to purchase and what they return to the shelves. Age verification is required to purchase alcoholic beverages. Shoppers are anonymous to ensure privacy and European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance.

Customers can ask questions of the limited staff at the stores, but there are no checkout lines or cashiers. Purchases are processed through the app, and digital receipts are available when customers leave the store. Disputes regarding purchased items or price and refunds are handled through the app as well.

Onsite staff monitor the entrance and customer log-in, answer technical and product-related questions, and stock shelves. After the initial trial phase, Hoody is expected to be open 24 hours a day. Autonomo plans to open additional Hoody stores in Germany and internationally in 2023.

Automated Pricing Promotes Purchases

While simplifying the shopping experience, Autonomo claims to have tripled retail margins. The technology reduces labor costs and retail shrink, or theft. In addition, Hoody features a unique pricing capability. The cost of an item can fluctuate, based on time of day, consumer demand, or for quick sale. For example, the software will automatically reduce the price of bananas that are starting to turn brown to encourage consumers to purchase them before they have to be thrown out.

The Autonomo software also tracks product purchases across the store and can tailor product offerings based on consumer demand, local trends, and specialty offerings.

Hoody might mark Germany’s entrance to autonomous stores, but Amazon launched its AmazonGo stores using “Just Walk Out” technology in the US in 2016 and has expanded its cashless concept abroad. Tesco teamed with Israeli-based Trigo to launch autonomous markets in the UK.