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VulcanPost: This Malaysian is building a smart store that needs no employees

Jocelyn Tan

21 Jan 2021

After seeing the long queues bred from the SOPs for shopping, Yee Yun Lim wondered how something so simple like an errand run became so complex.

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After seeing the long queues at shopping centers, Yee Yun Lim wondered how something so simple like an errand run became so complex. She recalled her experience at a Japanese convenience store where she could quickly tap in with her metro card, get what she needed, and tap out.

Amazed at how convenient and quickly it was to grab-and-go with her items sans queuing, she decided to bring this concept to the local scene. Through her company Aye Solutions—pronounced “I” solutions—she’s bringing her proof-of-concept AI store here to the untapped local market, calling it the Aye Smart Store​.

Lim’s goal is to make AI more accessible ​to local businesses and applicable to the mass market through its ​localized​ ​plug-and-play model​. That works like this: Imagine a physical store that’s unmanned, providing a fully automated experience from the moment you enter until you leave.

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To enter the store, simply tap either a bank card or Aye Solutions’ app at the entrance gates, like entering the subway. You can then browse and pick up items from the shelves and place them in a physical shopping bag. The Aye Smart Store will automatically add your items into their virtual copy of your cart without any scanning required.

If you change your mind, you can put items back on the shelves and Aye’s system will deduct it from your cart. To check out, you’ll simply walk out of the store. That same card you used to enter with will be automatically charged by Aye’s system.

Lim told Vulcan Post that Aye’s system is built to track multiple shoppers at a time. The store knows what you’ve picked up or put back through a backend network of sensors and cameras, which track and analyze the movement of shoppers. Store managers can track the operations in real-time through an app. This should also eliminate the concern of shoplifting, as every shopper who enters the store is tied to the card they’ve tapped in with.

Lots of cameras and sensors
The fluidity and ease of shopping presented by automation certainly seems like cutting-edge tech. It does, however, call for certain accountability from each shopper too, especially in putting back items in its right place if they change their mind.

Employing smarter tech also comes with skepticism from a market that isn’t that much exposed to it. Cameras and sensors are tracking movements from the moment a client enters, causing privacy concerns. However, the presence of the cameras in the Aye Smart Store will strictly be for security purposes only, Lim assured.

As for the information on the card, Lim clarified that the Aye Smart Store does not keep any personal details in their backend. The same goes for banking information. “We practice a strict data privacy policy and do not sell any personal details to third parties,” she said. “As for banking details, the payment terminal is owned by the financial service provider, like a bank, and all information is stored by them. The financial service provider acts as an intermediary between the Aye Smart Store and the customer.”

Photo courtesy of Aye Solutions via Vulcan Post.
The only information Aye requests is a customer’s mobile number to send a verification code for purchases. It also acts as a point of contact.

Aye’s POC store will be located in Glenmarie. Lim hopes that it can showcase Aye’s technology to consumers, business owners, and investors alike. “This is important as an integrated autonomous retail solution like this does not exist in the local market yet. We want people to experience the technology first-hand and experience the true meaning of a highly tech assisted lifestyle,” she said.

Lim added that there is reason to visit the smart store outside of experiencing something new, because it’ll be selling both consumable and non-consumable essentials like most convenience stores. By being a store that functions on little to no contact between humans as well as a better crowd control system, Lim sees Aye as playing a crucial role in fulfilling people’s desires for offline shopping during the pandemic.

This article was originally published by Vulcan Post.

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