- Autonomous checkout technology provider Standard Cognition has raised $150 million in Series C funding from a group of investors led by Japan's SoftBank Vision Fund 2, the company announced Wednesday. The artificial intelligence company said the latest investment, which included CRV, EQT Ventures, TI Platform Management and SK Networks of South Korea in the funding round, values it at $1 billion.
- Standard plans to use the funds to scale its operations as it pursues a goal of installing its computer vision-based checkout equipment in more than 50,000 retail locations during the next five years.
- Standard is looking to build its influence as retailers pay growing attention to frictionless technologies that promise to make it faster and easier for customers to pay for goods in brick-and-mortar stores.
With its latest round of investment, Standard is positioning itself to take further advantage of an ongoing wave of retailer interest in checkout-free capabilities driven by the safety concerns brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
Standard markets its ability to install its technology in existing retail spaces quickly and with minimal disruption as a key differentiator. The San Francisco-based company reached a key milestone in October when a convenience store at the University of Houston retrofitted with Standard's technology launched entirely automated operations. Chartwells Higher Education, a division of international foodservice company Compass Group, which runs retail stores on college campuses, plans to install the technology in other locations "in the near future," according to a press release from Standard.
Standard is also piloting its system, which uses AI-driven cameras to track and silently bill customers for items they take from store shelves, with the Circle K convenience store chain run by Alimentation Couche-Tard of Canada.
SoftBank's bet on Standard could give the company a key boost by signaling that it can attract funds from technology investors with strong track records. The high-profile Japanese firm, which has brought in money from companies like Apple and Microsoft to invest in technology firms, is also an investor in DoorDash and Uber.
Standard faces competition from a host of other companies that are also hoping to profit as retailers experiment with ways to let customers exit stores without touching checkout equipment or encountering cashiers. One of its chief rivals, Grabango, is working with supermarket chain Giant Eagle, which is using that company's checkout-free system in a GetGo Cafe+Market convenience store in the Pittsburgh area.
Standard is also trying to stand out against Amazon, which has introduced customers to the automated checkout concept through its chain of Amazon Go and Go Grocery stores. Amazon said last year that it would make the technology it uses in those stores available to other retailers.
Other competitors in the automated checkout sector include Zippin, Trigo and AiFi, which announced Wednesday that it plans to work with Wundermart to put its computer vision technology in 20 European convenience stores during the first quarter of 2021. Earlier this month Zippin announced it had installed its technology in a hotel convenience store in Yokohoma, Japan, while Trigo brought in $60 million in December from investors including Tesco, a British supermarket chain that is testing its technology.