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Pro Sports Venues Embrace Autonomous Checkout Technology

27 Nov, 2019

By: Judy Leand
Doubtful That It Will Be Making an Appearance at Youth Sports, However

Cashierless and biometric technology may soon be coming to sports stadiums – at least at the pro level. Because fans attending events typically want to grab refreshments or a souvenir quickly and then hustle to their seats to watch the action, cashierless stores could enhance the experience by eliminating long checkout lines. Moreover, such stores are usually small and hold a limited assortment, making it easier to track shoppers and their activity.

The rollout of Amazon Go cashierless convenience stores, which began in 2018, perhaps marked the beginning of the end for retailing’s traditional checkout process, and now a growing variety of autonomous shopping concepts are making their way into sports arenas. For the uninitiated, Amazon’s technology requires the shopper to scan an app or store card at a gated entrance to a store. A network of ceiling-mounted cameras watches products from multiple angles, and image-recognition software follows the outline of the shopper’s body to detect which products have been selected. The shopper’s account is charged when he or she exits the store.

Amazon is reportedly in talks with a variety of merchants, including OTG’s CIBO Express airport stores and Cineworld’s Regal Theatres, and could also license its Go technology to concession stands at MLB stadiums. Amazon currently operates 16 Go stores, and said it plans to open 3,000 by the end of 2021.

Although still in their nascent stages, cashier-free advances are also being introduced by Zippin and Standard Cognition, two start-ups that use technology similar to Amazon Go. Other companies such as Caper and Veeve are developing smart shopping carts in order to avoid costly store overhauls that can cost from $100,000 to $300,000. Entities such as sports stadiums are bullish on this cutting-edge technology due to its potential to automate the checkout process, reduce theft and boost profit margins.

Zippin, which is incorporated as Vcognition Technologies Inc., is offering a checkout-free convenience store inside the Golden 1 Center, home of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. The emporium is being billed as the first in-arena checkout-free food and beverage store and will be open during home games and concerts. Customers can use the store’s cashierless option by downloading the Zippin app or the Sacramento Kings + Golden 1 app, or can enter the store by presenting a valid credit or debit card.

Zippin’s technology provides real-time inventory tracking which helps staff restock missing items to maximize sales, and fans can also use their apps to see what’s available in the store. For venues and retailers interested in using the system, Zippin notes that while it offers a prefabricated turnkey store, customizable, modular shelf sensors can be retrofitted to existing stores.

Meanwhile, the Worcester Red Sox (the Triple-A affiliate of MLB’s Boston Red Sox) is living up to its commitment to make Polar Park a technological, innovative venue. Slated to open in April 2021, the Worcester, MA-based ballpark will include an autonomous checkout store built in partnership with Standard Cognition. The store will be open to the public daily, whether or not there is a game at the ballpark. Standard also aims to expand its autonomous checkout technology to other ballparks and stadiums around the country.

During the latter part of the 2019 regular baseball season, the MLB’s New York Mets partnered with CLEAR, a biometrics identification company, to introduce automated self-checkout concessions kiosks at Citi Field. To use the service, CLEAR members scanned their food and beverage items and then scanned their fingerprints at a self-checkout machine. When alcohol was being purchased, CLEAR could also verify that the customer was of legal age before completing the transaction.

CLEAR’s fingerprint scanning is already used for entry at various MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL, NHL and WNBA venues, and the company is now making its first foray into college sports. The company announced a deal with the University of Texas to offer its service for fans attending Longhorns’ home football games.

In Colorado, the NFL’s Denver Broncos recently announced that it will introduce, in conjunction with its new food and beverage partner Aramark, high-tech Mashgin artificial intelligence self-checkout units at Empower Field at Mile High Stadium. The touch screens will allow fans to scan items placed on the Mashgin units and will provide an immediate list of items and prices, making the checkout process quick and efficient. The Broncos believe that this new intuitive ordering and AI-powered checkout system will be a major timesaver and will enhance the fan experience. If successful, this could lead to fans being more likely to buy food and drink, thus generating more revenue.

About the Author

Judy Leand

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