Australian supermarket giant Woolworths is embracing new technologies, introducing a robot to make its stores safer and rolling out new surveillance techniques to crack down on shoplifters.
A new Woolworths store in Gregory Hills in Sydney opened last week, featuring an array of cutting-edge technologies that are being tested in-store.
Most prominently is a robot that will be going up and down the store’s aisles to look for any potential hazards, alerting staff members if it finds any dangers.
“We’ve been working to reduce trips and slips in our stores, but we still see too many,” a Woolworths spokesperson said.
“We’re trialling new technology in Gregory Hills to see if it can help make the store safer for our customers and team. It will roam the store looking for potential safety hazards, and allow one of our store team members to quickly attend to it.”
The new store also features conspicuous new iPads looming over the self-check out booths, with the in-built cameras used to monitor the items being scanned by customers.
“We know the vast majority of our customers do the right thing at self-serve checkouts,” the spokesperson said.
“This is a security measure we’re trialling for those that don’t.”
The company has said that the surveillance will be done “carefully” to ensure that the PIN pad isn’t filmed when the customer is using the EFTPOS machine.
Rival Coles has rolled out similar technology in 12 of its stores in Melbourne to crack down on people taking advantage of the self checkout feature.
Both of the supermarket giants have recently turned to automated, robotic technology to make their operations more efficient and cut costs.
The Woolies safety robot zips around looking for spills. Photo: Supplied
Woolworths has launched a $560 million warehouse featuring picking and packing robots used to distribute inventory to stores around Victoria. The company also trialled a check-out free shop in Sydney in late 2018, with shoppers scanning items through a smartphone app and automatically paying for them when they leave the store.
Coles recently announced a deal with a UK automated warehouse and online grocery delivery specialist which will see it build two robot-powered customer fulfillment centres for online orders.
There will be one warehouse each in Melbourne and Sydney, and they are expected to be up and running by 2023. The warehouses will feature hundreds of small robots picking up fresh and dry grocery items from shelves and loading them into customer delivery boxes.
The announcements are part of a global move to make supermarkets and stores more futuristic and user friendly.
In early 2018, Amazon opened the doors of its “store of the future” in Seattle. The store has no checkouts, with customers allowed to “grab and go” thanks to computer vision enabled cameras, deep learning algorithms and sensor fusion technology.
Italian supermarket chain Coop Italia has also tested using augmented reality in its stores to display information about the products, including origins, nutritional facts, allergens and promotions.
Chinese retail giant Alibaba has a network of stores where customers can scan items and then have them delivered to their homes within 30 minutes.