Imagine a store you can walk into, grab something to eat or drink, and then walk out, without standing in line to pay or scanning your items yourself. Sounds futuristic, but the technology to make it possible already exists, and it is coming to Hungary in a few months.
According to g7.hu, the café-slash-sandwich bar, aptly named Take it Easy, is planned to open on the 1st of July at Agora Park. Using a solution developed by the American company AiFi, the entire shop area will be monitored by cameras, relaying the images to software capable of identifying what exactly customers are doing.
The system will label and track each person to enter throughout the time they spend in-store, but it will not require personal data, making it fully compliant with European data protection regulations.
The program will calculate the value of all items taken out of the café or consumed on-site and deduct the money from customers’ bank accounts. Patrons will need to either download an application and register their bank cards there or swipe them on the installed card reader as they enter the store.
The company bringing the concept to Hungary is Kende Gastro Zrt., and if their plans work out, this café will be the first in a line of automated shops. As founder Gábor Kende explained,
this new technology could help business owners in many ways.
For instance, by allowing them to remain open for 24 hours each day, reducing labour costs, tracking stocks, and providing novel insight into customers’ habits, e.g. how much time they spend looking at an item or what kinds of products they take off the shelves but then leave without buying them. In the case people are willing to enter some pieces of information about themselves, the system could also offer them suggestions based on their earlier shopping and give them personalised discounts.
This setup could even put an end to hoteliers’ woes, claims Gábor Kende, for whom the management of minibars is a constant challenge. It is not even necessary to build actual walls: the system can create virtual ones and bill all items that are carried past those lines to the corresponding account.
There is no telling how this invention will fare in Budapest, Gábor Kende himself admits, and it will certainly be quite some time before we have to bid adieu to all friendly cashiers, as some stores might also opt for a hybrid approach where this system is only used during nighttime.