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Eran Kravitz, CTO and Co-Founder of Shopic – Interview Series

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Eran Kravitz is the CTO and Co-Founder of Shopic, a company with the goal of transforming grocery stores with frictionless, personalized retail solutions that blend the best parts of online and brick-and-mortar shopping. Shopic developed an AI-powered device that can be attached to any standard shopping cart, turning it into a smart cart. Using computer vision on edge, it recognizes when shoppers add or remove items. It creates personalized store journeys, with in-aisle contextual promotions and ongoing assistance – and allows shoppers to skip the checkout lines when they leave.

What initially attracted you to the field of AI?

We first got started working on scan-and-go solutions based on barcode scanning and were looking for our next big project. We thought it could be interesting to explore using Computer Vision and Artificial Intelligence, as they had undergone significant advances in recent years. Our first experience with AI was using it for a complementary system for our scan-and-go solution that would apply our data to learning algorithms to try and identify abnormalities in shopping sessions. It worked very well, so we wanted to take the solution to the next level using visual data. As we started work on this new challenge, we realized that we could identify each item as it gets placed in the shopping cart. One thing led to another, and that’s how we got to where Shopic is today.

Could you share the genesis story behind Shopic?

We founded Shopic in 2015. Raz and I had many years of experience in the cybersecurity industry and wanted to solve a new problem in a new field. Immediately, the brick-and-mortar retail industry stood out to us as a field that hasn’t been updated significantly in many years or has been slow to adopt digitization. Our first solution was a mobile app to allow quick checkout using barcode scanning. Over the years, the company made changes and adjustments to offer a solution that both greatly benefits retailers and consumers.

Can you discuss what is the Shopic AI-powered clip-on device, and how it can transform a shopping cart into a smart cart?

Shopic has developed an AI-powered clip-on device that can turn any standard shopping cart into a smart cart and is less expensive than purpose-built smart carts. Once the device is attached to its mount, the cart becomes smart. Using its cameras and an integrated processing unit, the device recognizes items being added or removed, enabling shoppers to skip the checkout lines, while also offering personalized store journeys and contextual promotions. Shopic’s zero-disruption approach allows medium and large size stores to quickly implement smart frictionless experiences with minimal modifications to store layouts and operational practices, while also requiring low capital outlay.

How accurate is the computer vision system in detecting different types of objects, or is it looking for specific barcodes?

We employ AI and CV experts who develop our unique algorithms to tackle these challenges. We need to differentiate between thousands of items, some of which are very similar to one another in an environment with many edge cases. The system is incredibly accurate and user-friendly – it kind of feels like magic. We get amazing feedback from shoppers and a large percentage of our customers are returning customers who are loyal to the solution and to the store it’s used in. Our algorithms recognize the item itself based on its visual features; all shoppers have to do is place them in the cart as they usually would.

If a shopper chooses to insert items directly in a reusable shopping bag can Shopic still detect these items?

Of course! That’s one of the best features – bag as you shop. You bag the item as you pick it up from the shelf, and the next time you touch it is when you unpack it at home. There is no need to take items in and out of the cart multiple times, as you would normally do when paying at a cash register.

How does Shopic identify suspicious transactions?

We’ve developed a solution specifically for this concern. As our current platform has been developed over time, we’ve enriched it with visual data and non-visual data using learning algorithms to track each transaction in real time and flag suspicious transactions.

Why is it important for retailers to embrace this type of technology?

Today, grocers have a blind spot of information from the moment a shopper enters a store and until they check out. Shopic provides retailers with live data on a shopping journey and the shopper’s various interactions in the store. This data can be used for footpath personalization, shelf analytics, contextual promotions, and better understanding of shopping habits.

Additionally, amidst labor shortages and COVID restrictions, this type of technology frees up workers time to focus on more customer-related tasks.

What’s your vision for the future of the retail experience?

My vision for the future revolves around the three H’s, heterogeneous, hybrid, and human. To navigate this new era of grocery shopping, multiple heterogeneous approaches and technologies will need to be at play within a single chain, or even a single store to address the diverse needs of their customers. These technologies should not be in competition with one another, and instead work together for a customer-centric approach to innovation.

A hybrid approach to grocery shopping includes the best aspects of shopping online including high transparency, deep personalization, low friction, and fully digitized operations, while being able to shop in person.

The grocery industry is a people-centric business, and it’s important to have practices in place that reflect that best. Some fear that by adding more technology to stores, they will start to feel robotic and impersonal, however it is actually the opposite. Including cashier-less checkout doesn’t mean the store will go unstaffed, it will just free up employees’ time to spend on other more demanding customer-related tasks where human interaction is best appreciated.

By combining the three H’s, stores can keep up with ever changing consumer expectations and run operations more smoothly.

Is there anything else that you want to share about Shopic?

We are looking forward to what the future holds for in-store shopping and are excited to play a major role in the industry and around the world in the coming years.

Thank you for the great interview, readers who wish to learn more should visit Shopic.

Antoine Tardif is a Futurist who is passionate about the future of AI and robotics. He is the CEO of BlockVentures.com, and has invested in over 50 AI & blockchain projects. He is the Co-Founder of Securities.io a news website focusing on digital assets, digital securities and investing. He is a founding partner of unite.AI & a member of the Forbes Technology Council.