Supermarkets turn to AI: Morrisons becomes first British store to install thousands of AI-powered cameras alon – Daily Mail

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Morrisons has become Britain’s first supermarket chain to install thousands of AI-powered cameras across its stores in an attempt to help staff fill shelves faster.

The retailer has teamed up with an AI firm based in Seattle called Focal Systems, and trials reportedly found the devices boost availability and make staff more efficient.

The cameras monitoring shelves have four categories – showing ‘OOS’ for out of stock; ‘PLANO’ for planogram non-compliance – when something is not in the right place; ‘LOW’ for low stock; and ‘RESTOCKED’ when a product is back on the shelf. 

This data is then fed to applications that work out where shelves need restocking – and the idea behind the project is that staff become aware more quickly where stocks are running low, which can free them up to focus more on customer service.

Focal Systems claims its technology can automate all decision-making in store – but the move suggests supermarkets could become less reliant on human staff in future.

Morrisons is understood to have seen better availability in stores involved in the pilot of the tech, which has already been used at thousands of Walmart shops in Canada.

An example of Focal Systems technology in supermarkets using its AI cameras - showing OOS for out of stock; PLANO for planogram non-compliance (when something is not in the right place); LOW for low stock; and RESTOCKED when a product is back on the shelf

The AI models work out stock going off and onto the shelves as well as spoiled produce on an hourly basis, which is fed to applications that work out where shelves need restocking

An AI camera from Focal Systems, a US firm whose technology is being used by Morrisons

A 'buzz for booze' button at a Morrisons is another piece of technology being used by the chain

Footage on Indyme's website shows how the advanced security devices work in the shops

Former Carrefour boss Rami Baitieh, who was appointed Morrisons chief executive last September, believes improving availability is a key part of improving his stores.

How will the Morrisons AI cameras work? 

Morrisons has partnered with an American AI firm Focal Systems which produces cameras that can track shelf availability on its supermarket shelves.

The Seattle-based company says its technology has been trained on more than two billion labelled images which it has captured from retailers from over 200,000 deployed cameras.

The firm also claims to remove any data that could identify an individual, so that no customer or employee image details are retained or tracked.

Its AI models then work out stock going off and onto the shelves as well as spoiled produce on an hourly basis, which is fed to applications that work out where shelves need restocking.

If something is detected as out of stock and is available in the backroom, the system adds the produce to a list – and, if not, it can order more products.


And a Morrisons source told MailOnline: ‘It is exciting on the one hand and something staff are becoming aware of. 

‘The trials are thought to have been successful and people have seen benefits and good results.

‘But that is a fear for the future of retail staff? Is this a sign of the future? Where does it leave people?’

The Bradford-based chain has nearly 500 stores across Britain and is hoping to install the AI cameras in them before the end of the year, reported The Grocer.

Toby Pickard, global insight leader at the Institute of Grocery Distribution, told the publication: ‘This is an interesting technology advancement by Morrisons, that should help enhance the in-store shopping experience and improve its operations.

‘Over recent years, IGD has seen many retailers trialling shelf-edge cameras to monitor stock availability. What is most surprising about this initiative is the speed at which they are moving from trial to full rollout.

‘It is aiming to have the solution in every store by the end of summer, which implies the trials have been successful.’

Other supermarkets are also trialling AI technology as they battle to at least sustain market share in the context of an epidemic of thefts in stores.

Sainsbury’s has deployed new AI security cabinets to help prevent shoplifting in alcohol aisles.

The new technology, Freedom Case, is a locked self-service cabinet which holds high-price spirits. Customers are required to complete a touchscreen process to open the shelf.

Cameras powered by AI at a Walmart store in Levittown, New York, pictured in April 2019

AI cameras have been employed at a Walmart store in Levittown, New York, since 2019

The company behind the unit, Indyme, says it uses AI and built in sensors to identify potential thefts by tracking activity such as how long the door has been opened and if anything inside has been moved. 

Morrisons is also upgrading security and has brought in a ‘Buzz for Booze’ button that requires staff to unlock alcohol fridges for customers.

Meanwhile Amazon uses ‘Just Walk Out’ technology with AI-powered cameras to track purchases at its Fresh grocery stores.

AI cameras have also been employed at a Walmart store in New York since 2019 to monitor it in real time so its workers can quickly react to replenish products or fix other problems.

This can include when shelves need to be restocked, if shopping trolleys are running low, whether there are spills on the floor and when more tills need to be opened before long lines start forming.

Last week, Morrisons said sales had grown at the fastest rate for three years amid efforts from Mr Baitieh to revitalise the supermarket chain.

He is leading the firm’s bid to recover more market share by competing with German discount rivals Aldi and Lidl on price.

Sainsbury's has deployed new AI security cabinets to help prevent shoplifting in alcohol aisles

Morrisons said that group like-for-like sales, excluding fuel and VAT, rose by 4.6 per cent over the three months to January 28.

This compared with 0.1 per cent over the same quarter a year earlier, and 3.3 per cent in the previous quarter. Total sales were up 3.9 per cent to £3.9billion for the period.

The rise in sales comes amid a period of increases in food and drink prices although food inflation has slowed in recent months.

Earlier in March, Companies House filings showed Morrisons made a loss of more than £1 billion in the year to October last year.

And in February, Morrisons became the latest supermarket to try to win back customers from Aldi and Lidl as it announced it would match the prices of some of their products.

In January, Mr Baitieh said Morrisons was developing plans to ‘reinvigorate, refresh and strengthen’ the brand. 

Morrisons, which was bought by US private equity firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice in 2022 for £7billion, is the fifth-largest supermarket chain in the UK, after being overtaken by Aldi two years ago.

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