Sensei_store illustration

Source: Sensei

Sensei says its technology creates a shopping experience as seamless as Amazon Go

A UK supermarket could be set to beat Amazon to launching the country’s first fully automated store, where customers simply pick up their shopping and leave.

Portuguese tech startup Sensei is working with an unnamed “very big” UK grocer on an Amazon Go-style store set to open in the second half of this year.

The firm’s technology uses cameras and artificial intelligence to detect what shoppers pick up and put down. Payment is deducted automatically when they leave from a credit card registered by the customer on an app, creating an experience which Sensei says is identical to that in Amazon Go stores in the US.

The news comes as Amazon also prepares to bring its Go concept stores to the UK, having secured sites in London, as revealed by The Grocer in February. It’s not yet clear how soon the first will open.

Confidentiality agreements meant Sensei could not name its UK partner but Joana Rafael, the firm’s chief operating officer and co-founder, said it was a “very big” retailer in the “grocery sector”.

“When the news is out it’s going to be everywhere,” she said.

“There’s no stores in the world with this kind of technology besides Amazon in the US.”

The technology can be used to create seamless checkout-free stores in sites anywhere from 1,000 sq ft to 50,000 sq ft, raising the possibility of a full-sized Amazon Go-style supermarket, although Sensei would not be drawn on the specifics of the plans.

Read more: How will Amazon Go shake up grocery shopping in the UK?

“There’s too much at stake,” said Vasco Portugal, Sensei chief executive officer and co-founder.

Sensei last year raised €500,000 in pre-seed funding from retailers Metro Group in Germany and Sonae in Portugal.

The firm has a mock-up shop in Lisbon where its technology is demonstrated but has yet to deploy it in a real store.

A number of UK supermarkets are already trialling checkout free stores, including Sainsbury’s in London’s Clapham North Station, the Co-op in Manchester’s West Didsbury and Tesco in a store inside its Welwyn Garden City HQ. However, those require customers to scan each item on their phone as they shop, something that is not necessary in an Amazon Go or using Sensei’s technology.

Using Sensei’s algorithms, cameras can detect every product that is picked up and by whom, with no need for additional sensors. “We try to make it as easy as going to your fridge,” said Portugal.

“It doesn’t matter if you put the product in a trolley or a bag or even if you hide it. For our technology it doesn’t make a difference.”

To enter the store, customers must scan their phone at a turnstile, just like in an Amazon Go.

Sensei_store illustration

Source: Sensei