Cashierless tech maker Standard Cognition buys Explorer.ai

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Cashierless tech startup Standard Cognition has acquired the robotic mapping startup, Explorer.ai, to accelerate the rollout of its autonomous checkout solutions to retailers.

The acquisition marks a raising of the stakes in a battle to deliver cashierless store technology and reshape the future of the retail store. Standard Cognition opened its first cashierless store in September in downtown San Francisco as a proof of concept that would allow it to test its technology as well as attract potential retailer clients. At the time of the store opening, a Standard Cognition spokesperson reported that the company had signed several undisclosed retailers as customers.

“The team [at Explorer.ai] is highly experienced and already works well together — having them in place gives our engineering team a big edge and a running start toward applying their state-of-the-art computer vision and mapping skill sets in autonomous vehicles (AV) to retail," said Jordan Fisher, co-founder, and CEO of Standard Cognition, in the press release. "We believe mapping is a critical ingredient to autonomous checkout. The Explorer team has a strong record of tackling these problems together, and we're confident that this will allow us to make rapid progress at Standard."

In November, Standard Cognition raised $40 million in a Series A funding round that included investors such as venture capital firms CRV and Y Combinator, the latter being the famed startup accelerator that invested in Stripe, WePay, Coinbase and Airbnb. According to Crunchbase, a website that tracks investments made in private tech companies, Standard Cognition has raised $50.6 million in four rounds of funding since it first began raising capital in 2017.

Amazon, a major cashierless store proponent, first launched its cashierless store, called Amazon Go, in 2016 near its Seattle headquarters. Since then Amazon has opened or prepared to open about a half dozen Go stores in Seattle, Chicago, New York and San Francisco. A major challenge to Amazon’s cashierless store is size, as most stores are around 2,500 square feet, which is roughly the footprint of a convenience store. According to a report in Recode, the Amazon’s Go cashierless store could generate more than $4 billion in revenue in 2021 if it carries out reported plans to open up 3,000 new stores by that time.

In addition to Amazon and Standard Cognition, there are multiple ongoing efforts by tech firms and retailers to jettison cashiers in an effort to reshape the consumer shopping experience. The newly merged grocery store and pharmacy chains, Albertson’s and Rite Aid, unveiled plans for cashierless checkout system. Walmart and Microsoft are also reportedly working on a cashierless store format. Finally, there are additional startups such as Trigo Vision and Molton, who are working on the technology with the hopes of selling their systems to grocery stores and retailers.

The cashierless store concept is not limited to the U.S., as there are examples in the U.K., France and China where the concept has resonated with both retailers and consumers.

French grocer Casino launched its cashierless store in Paris in a preemptive bid against possible Amazon Go stores launching in France. In China, retailer BingoBox has opened 300 stores in 30 Chinese cities since 2016. BingoBox positions the stores, which first launched in 2016, as a combination of a convenience store and a vending machine.

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