San Francisco start-up Zippin is trying to eliminate grocery checkout lines

  • Zippin CEO Krishna Motukuri says Americans spend more than 100 hours a year standing in lines.
  • The San Francisco start-up wants to change this by making autonomous, cashierless stores the new standard.
  • Zippin's technology uses a combination of overhead cameras and sensors on its shelves, along with its AI-driven software, to follow consumers' every move and keep track of everything grabbed off the shelves.

Amazon introduced the concept of checkout-free grocery stores when it opened its first Amazon Go store in Seattle in February. Now San Francisco start-up Zippin is trying to bring that experience to everyone.

Co-founder and CEO Krishna Motukuri said Americans spend more than 100 hours a year standing in lines. And he wants to change that. To shop in a store with Zippin's technology installed, you download an app and scan it when you enter the store. After that, you're free to pick up whatever you want and then simply walk out.

Zippin uses a combination of overhead cameras and sensors on its shelves, along with its AI-driven software, to follow your every move and keep track of everything you grab off the shelves, using sensors. If someone tried to steal something, they would still get charged for the item.

"If there was somebody — a human — that actually were able to follow a customer around the store and see what they were picking and just took a note of that information and then, when they walked out, simply gave them a bill, it would be very convenient for the customer. But of course that's not scalable — and that's exactly what the technology does," Motukuri said.

Zippin is a software provider, not a retailer. The goal is to license its platform to retailers like grocery stores or convenience stores. Zippin isn't alone in trying to get rid of checkout lines. Another San Francisco start-up, Standard Cognition, is developing similar technology, but its version doesn't use shelf sensors, only cameras.

Motukuri is confident that once people experience shopping in a store with a system like Zippin, they won't want to go back to stores with cashiers. "I think I would say [in] five to 10 years, you should expect every store will be checkout free."

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