Can the future of an entire industry sector be exhibited in just one innovation lab? The answer is: Yes. The ‘LAB powered by METRONOM’ has opened a technology exhibition in Düsseldorf for 12 months, where METRONOM, the tech unit of METRO, will present 5 ground-breaking tech trends in the retail industry. It will launch with examples from the field of automatic image recognition for products and faces (visual search and recognition).
Visitors can experience the hot topics in phases: Various exhibits can be viewed for 2 to 3 months before the focus shifts to the next tech trend. This way, the ‘LAB powered by METRONOM’ gives visitors an impression of what is already technically possible today and how digitalisation is impacting wholesale. The presented hot topics include:
- Visual Search and Recognition
- Augmented, Virtual and Mixed Reality
- Robotic Assistance
- Algorithmic Retailing
- Smart Checkout
For Markus Pfründer, responsible METRONOME director, the LAB is both a discussion platform and an exhibition space: ‘We have identified 5 topics that reflect the zeitgeist of the digitalised trade sector. It's all about identifying opportunities and risks.’ The visitors are supposed to analyse the tech solutions and think about further opportunities, he explains the approach of the LAB. ‘What challenges is the trade sector facing in general? Where can METRO be tied in? At the LAB we look for answers together with the visitors’, explains Markus Pfründer. The first cycle of the exhibition focuses on the theme of ‘Visual Search and Recognition’.
Between facial recognition and product search
The term ‘Computer Vision’ (CV) describes a process in which machines capture, process and analyse real images and videos. Machines with CV record their environment and identify objects as well as faces: They learn to look like people.
Just 30 years ago, the identification of objects or persons by machines was difficult and inaccurate, but in the meantime the technology has matured so much that its error rate is similar to, and even below, the human error rate.
In addition, the observing machines manage to associate detected objects and faces with previously collected and stored data. For example, when they detect a product whose ingredients are known, they provide the information as soon as they identify the product – in just a few seconds. CV offers enormous potential for the wholesale industry: For example, it can reduce the time spent searching for items or product information, facilitate the collection and storage of data, and provide personalised advice based on customer information retrieved.
In order to give those interested deeper insights into this hot topic, LAB 5 shows different tech solutions that work on principles of CV. A particularly exciting tool: RetailQuant.
One of the 5 innovations in the field of ‘Visual Search and Recognition’ is the work of RetailQuant. The Munich-based start-up company has made it its mission to promote digitalisation in the industry sector. Their innovation: A digital solution that allows restaurateurs and retailers to anonymously collect, analyse and interpret demographic data about their clientèle - cost-effectively and easily. RetailQuant users just have to install a sensor at their cash register. The digital assistant recognises the age, gender, origin, and satisfaction level of the customers during the payment process. This means that a vast variety of customer data can now be automatically recorded, even in bricks-and-mortar retail. They help companies make customer-oriented decisions to optimise their assortments or advertising measures. A special crypto software encrypts the customer data and thereby ensures compliance with the German Data Protection Directive.