Self-service checkout theft made impossible
NEW technology developed in Australia is set to wipe out cheating at self-service checkouts.
Since the scanners were first introduced almost a decade ago, customers have been abusing them, largely by putting expensive items through as much cheaper products.
Recently, a man was fined $A326,000 for a self-service checkout scam involving expensive meat scanned as cheap fruit.
And a Queensland mum was given a suspended sentence for an elaborate self-service checkout scam that enabled her to steal $4500 in groceries from Coles and Woolworths using photocopied barcodes from two-minute noodles.
But an automated product recognition system that's been developed by an Aussie start-up company will end the ability for customers to exploit the machines.
Tiliter Technology has developed the brains to drive "smart checkouts" which automatically identify a product so customers can't cheat the system. It also removes the need for barcodes or having to enter additional information.
Co-founder Chris Sampson said the technology uses a camera to identify the product and then automatically enters the information into the point-of-sale system.
"It's based on machine learning and artificial intelligence which has been taught to recognise different types of fruit and other products," he told news.com.au.
"The big value for supermarkets is removing the significant loss seen from people entering the wrong information when using self-service checkouts.
"However, customers will also benefit by not needing to search through menus trying to identify the items they are purchasing."
Mr Sampson said the technology was so smart it could even tell the difference between varied products from the same family.
"Our tech is different from some of the stuff we have seen struggle in the past because it can tell the difference between a red delicious and royal gala apple for example," he said.
The concept is currently being trialled across a number of independent grocers, and the company is in talks with larger supermarkets such as Coles and Woolworths to explore the possibility of expanding to them later this year.
The news comes as another new technology aimed at stopping self-service checkout theft is being tested by retailers across the country.
Retail sources have confirmed to News Corp Australia that stores across Australia have been using camera and video technology to capture a bird's eye view of exactly what customers are doing at the checkout, with alerts sent to staff when incorrectly scanned items are captured.
Created by US company Stoplift, the testing phase of the technology has been operational since late last year, with chief executive officer Malay Kundu saying "a fair amount of theft" has been recorded at both manned and self-service checkouts.
"Our algorithms are analysing that material continuously so it's able to watch all of that video footage and compare that with transaction data,'' he told the Herald Sun.
Theft costs Australian retailers $9.3 billion per year - or 3 per cent of their total annual turnover - with self-service checkout theft accounting for a decent proportion of this.
The Australian Retailers' Association's executive director Russell Zimmerman said these technologies were going to be a godsend in the battle against theft.
"Buyer beware. If you risk it, you are going to get caught and you need to expect the force of the law to come down on you,'' he said.
"Retailers need to up the ante to ensure they capture everything that they possibly can to eliminate the cost of retail theft in their stores."
This isn't the first time retailers have aimed to stem the cost of theft caused from self-service checkouts.
In October 2016, police launched a high-profile campaign at a Coles supermarket to remind customers that self-service checkout theft was still theft.
This was followed by Coles reducing self-serve checkout to 12 items early last year.
At the time, a survey by consumer research company Canstar found one in six customers aged in their 30s said they had deliberately not paid for an item at a self-service checkout.
Almost one in 10 shoppers of all ages admitted they had cheated in the self-service section, with men more likely to steal than women.
Canstar Blue told news.com.au that while younger customers had embraced self-service because they actively tried to avoid interaction with others while shopping, they also practised the "five-finger discount".
Research Fellow and QUT's PwC chair in digital economy Paula Dootson said self-service technology - which has divorced us from actual staff - had dulled our conscience when it came to checkout theft.
"People struggle to understand who the victim is when committing deviance to a seemingly faceless organisation," she told news.com.au.