New technology to reduce self-service checkout queues – and thefts

New technology developed by an Australian company looks set to shorten queues at supermarket self-service checkouts, while removing any chances of customers ‘cheating’ the system.

As it stands, shoppers need to manually search for their fruits or vegetables in order to obtain a price, but that could be about to change thanks to technology company Tiliter which has produced a system that can automatically identify products.

Not only could it reduce the time that customers spend at the checkouts, but it will also mean that shoppers will no longer be able to pass off expensive items as cheaper ones.

In recent years, numerous examples of self-service checkout theft have come to light, including the case of a man who cheated his local supermarket out of thousands of dollars by scanning expensive meats as cheap fruits.

But the automated product recognition system developed by Tiliter looks set to keep shoppers honest. Co-founder Chris Sampson said the technology uses a camera to identify the product and automatically enters the information into the point-of-sale system.

“It’s based on machine learning and artificial intelligence which has been taught to recognise different types of fruit and other products,” Mr Simpson told “The big value for supermarkets is removing the significant loss seen from people entering the wrong information when using self-service checkouts.

“However, customers will also benefit by not needing to search through menus trying to identify the items they are purchasing.”

Mr Sampson said the technology was so smart it could even tell the difference between varied products from the same family.

“Our tech is different from some of the stuff we have seen struggle in the past because it can tell the difference between a red delicious and royal gala apple for example,” he said.

The technology is currently being trialled across a number of independent grocers, and the company is in talks with “several large players in the fresh produce and grocery space” to explore the possibility of expanding to them later this year.

Meanwhile reports suggest that another new technology designed to reduce self-service checkout theft is being tested across Australia. In this instance, it involves the use of cameras and video technology to capture a bird’s eye view of exactly what customers are doing at the checkout, with alerts sent to staff when incorrectly scanned items are captured.

How prevalent is self-service checkout theft?

In a recent Canstar Blue survey, 9% of shoppers admitted to deliberately not paying for an item at self-service checkouts, either by scanning it as a cheaper item, or just taking it without paying at all. This number jumped to 17% of consumers aged in their 30s, compared to just 2% of those aged 70 plus. Men (10%) were more likely to admit to stealing than women (8%).

Overall, 66% of survey respondents said they find self-service checkouts “easy to use”, but their popularity varies significantly between young and old. While nine out of ten consumers aged 18-39 declared them easy to use, the number dropped to about five out of ten shoppers aged over 60. Women (70%) find self-service checkouts easier to use than men (61%), the research found.

Whether consumers find them easy to use or not, just 47% of adults said they prefer to use self-service checkouts when they are available, with those aged 18-29 again more likely to agree (74%), compared with just a quarter (25%) of people aged 70 and over. Women (50%) are more likely to favour self-service checkouts than men (43%).

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