Supermarket chain Colruyt has started an experiment in a supermarket in Kortrijk in West Flanders, using artificial intelligence (AI) technology to power a smart camera that can recognise and identify fruit and vegetables.
The process works as follows, Colruyt explained in a statement: the client brings one of the 120 varieties of fruit and vegetables sold in the Kortrijk store to the checkout. The camera takes a photo, and identifies the product. The client then has to confirm the identification on a tablet by the scale, and the ticket is printed.
According to early testing, the system is able to identify produce correctly in 97% of cases. As more products are identified correctly, Colruyt explained, the system will become even more accurate.
The AI process was developed with Ghent-based AI company Robovision. “We have customised the software for Colruyt”, said Jonathan Berte, CEO of Robovision. “It is nice to see that our expertise in AI found its way to the store. This is a unique partnership with an innovative retailer. Moreover, the project is a perfect match with our mission: making AI more democratic.”
Colruyt hopes the technology will help speed up flow at the checkout. Operators no longer have to type a code for fruit and vegetables, which the camera automatically recognises. While the fruit and vegetables are being handled by the system, the checkout operator can be scanning other items. And finally, the system may have the solution to the problem of some fruit and vegetables – usually organic produce – being packed in plastic to differentiate it from other products. “Today, we pack some fruit and vegetables to avoid confusion between products. If we can automatically recognise them, this problem might vanish,” said Rudi Dewulf, regional sales manager for West Flanders.
Another advantage of automatic product recognition which Colruyt diplomatically does not mention, is the practice of deliberately taking a ticket from the weighing scale for a lower-priced product. Checkout operators tend not to read the tickets, and when they are scanned the machine pays no attention to what is in the bag. With automatic product recognition, that sort of fraud becomes impossible.
The testing at Kortrijk will run for three months and the results studied before any decisions is taken regarding extending the system to other stores.