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AiFi raises $65 million Series B to expand computer vision-based autonomous retail stores

AiFi raises $65 million Series B to expand computer vision-based autonomous retail stores

AiFi, a startup developing autonomous shopping solutions, announced a Series B funding of $65 million with participation from Verizon Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures, HP Tech Ventures, Mithril Capital, Aldi South Group, Żabka Group, and Rewe of Germany. AiFi said the investment reflects the growing use of its AI platform by Aldi and other retail partners to provide an enhanced user experience while shopping.

The latest round brings the company’s total funding to $80 million and will be an important part of the company’s growth plans for 2022.

The Covid-19 pandemic affected customers’ preferences and has increased the need to provide a seamless shopping experience through AI-focused suggestions. Leveraging advancements in computer vision, the AiFi AI platform is currently integrated with several retailers such as Aldi South Group, Carrefour, Compass Group, and Żabka Group, providing autonomous retail experiences across the globe. Along with retail stores, the company hopes the technology will be deployed in an increasingly diverse set of store formats like sports stadium canteens and convenience stores at the universities.

For computer vision, AiFi’s camera-only solution does not require the use of shelves with weight measuring systems; the company claims this reduces the deployment cost and time by a significant amount over competing systems. (Taking advantage of the advanced tracking algorithm, the technology can be scaled up to 10,000 square feet to support a shoppers’ journey through the application, credit card and hybrid entry.

“In working with AiFi over the past year, we experienced their deep expertise in artificial intelligence and computer vision-based product recognition first hand, as well as their commitment to meeting Aldi’s needs. This successful collaboration led to the opening of the world’s largest checkout-free store, based on camera vision only,” said an Aldi spokesperson.

The AiFi AI platform offers easy integration with the existing systems providing custom APIs for inventory management, electronic shelf labels as well as support for payment methods like Visa, Mastercard, Stripe, Ayden and many more. The hybrid solution by AiFi allows the customers to choose between checkout with a cashier or a contactless experience with computer vision technology.

AiFi solution is been deployed in one of the world’s largest contact-free and frictionless markets in London with Aldi South Group, expanded to NFL stadiums and music festivals and partnering with European Żabka Group to deploy 28 Żabka Nano autonomous stores. The startup also takes pride to be working with the Compass Group to open Market x Flutter, Ireland’s first frictionless store.

“As demand for autonomous retail grows and business intelligence continues to move from the cloud to the wireless edge, we are excited to support AiFi to help drive the connected intelligent edge,” said Carlos Kokron, vice president, Qualcomm Technologies and managing director, Qualcomm Ventures Americas. “We value AiFi’s innovative approach to edge-computing and look forward to accelerating the deployment of AI-powered solutions that further improve operational efficiencies and elevate customer shopping experiences.”

Another vision for autonomous stores

Not everyone agrees that all cashierless stores will rely on computer vision technology. The cameras and associated edge computing resources aren’t inexpensive, making them less appropriate for some types of store formats. Companies like Shekel Brainweigh offer AI-enabled smart shelf systems that weigh items on the shelf to count inventory technology is used in tandem with a LIDAR system (which uses light to measure object distance) for shopper tracking instead of facial recognition. Apart from costing less, vendors argue that LIDAR offers better privacy protection because it isn’t storing personally identifiable information.


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