Colruyt develops automated product identification at attended checkout

Belgian supermarket operator Colruyt is testing an innovative solution for identifying products at the checkout. It is aimed to assist employees and speed up the process by 20 per cent. In-house innovation team Smart Technics developed the system. A camera mounted above the checkout uses artificial intelligence to identify items as an employee moves them from one shopping cart to another.

Colruyt has been practising the unusual procedure of packing the goods from one trolley into another at the checkouts for many years. In this way, the company wishes to relieve its customers. They neither must put products onto a belt nor put them back into a trolley.


Since the beginning of this month, Colruyt has been testing the new scanning technology in a supermarket in Halle in the province of Flemish Brabant. Previously, the solution had already proven itself in a test environment. So far, the camera system works at only one checkout. Soon, it will support staff at a total of 10 checkouts in the store. The retailer wishes to test the new solution intensively for a few months before deciding on a further roll-out.

Cameras can automatically scan 85 per cent of products

The system comprises a camera and two large LED lights installed above the checkout. Using artificial intelligence, the software analyses the camera images. It reads barcodes and identifies the product packaging. For example, it can distinguish between multipacks that are made up of products with different barcodes. However, fruit and vegetables cannot be scanned with the new system. These must be weighed separately. The camera also does not recognise beverage crates that are placed at the bottom of the shopping trolley. In both cases, the cashier still must use a hand scanner. Overall, the system automatically detects 85 per cent of all items.

Colruyt’s Smart Technics team first tested the new solution in its test lab. (Photo: Colruyt Group)

The Smart Technics team tailored the solution to the specific requirements of Colruyt Group. In addition to higher efficiency, ergonomic and health aspects were in the foreground. Heliovision, a Belgian consultancy specialising in computer vision, assisted in the development. Colruyt Group is currently testing further innovations at the checkout. In November last year, the company opened its first unattended Okay Compact convenience store in Ghent, as reported by the Retail Optimiser. This solution also derived from the in-house technology team.

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Joachim Pinhammer

Joachim Pinhammer supports retail and technology companies with consulting and marketing expertise. He was Senior Analyst and Research Director Retail Technology at the London-based analyst group Planet Retail. Prior to that, he was the global marketing director for the retail division of Wincor Nixdorf (now Diebold Nixdorf). Joachim Pinhammer is a regular speaker at events organised by Messe Düsseldorf (EuroShop and EuroCIS), the EHI and further industry conferences. His reports are regularly published by trade magazines and online retail industry media.

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