After seeing the long lines that the SOPs bred for shopping, Yee Yun Lim wondered how something as simple as an errand became so complex.
She recalled her experience at a Japanese supermarket where she could quickly type with her subway map, get what she needed, and type.
Amazed at how convenient and quick it was to get her items around without queuing, she decided to bring this concept to the local scene.
A Proof-of-concept smart store
Through her company Aye Solutions – pronounced “I” solutions – she brings her Proof-of-Concept-AI-Shop (POC) here to the untapped local market and calls it the Aye Smart Store.
Their goal is to make AI more accessible and mass market applicable for local businesses through its localized plug-and-play model.
Dictionary time: Plug and play is used to describe devices that work with a computer system once connected without the need for external drivers or prior installation.
This is how the store works. Imagine an unmanned store that offers a fully automated experience from entering to exiting.
To enter the store, simply tap either a bank card or the Aye Solutions app at the entrance gates, just like entering the LRT.
You can then browse items off the shelves, pick them up, and put them in a physical shopping bag.
The Aye Smart Store will automatically add your items to the virtual copy of your shopping cart without the need for a scan.
If you change your mind, you can put items back on the shelves and Aye’s system will remove them from your cart.
Just leave the store to check out. The Aye system will automatically charge the same card you entered with.
Talk about the tech
When I first read about this concept store, I hypothesized that there had to be some kind of motion sensor under every item in order for it to work.
That’s how it would know when a customer picks up something and puts it down again, right?
I also wondered if only one person could be in the store at a time for the system to track their movements.
- The store manager app allows them to view the store’s layout (in blue), track and manage product inventory in real time, and manage the number of people in the store to facilitate social distancing / Image Credit: Aye Solutions
During an interview with Yun Lim, she told Vulcan Post that Aye’s system is designed to track multiple buyers at the same time.
Meanwhile, the store automatically knows what you’ve picked up or put back through the store’s backend network with sensors and cameras that track and analyze the movement of shoppers.
In addition, store managers can follow the operation of the store in real time via an app.
Overall, these steps should eliminate the shoplifting problem as every shopper who walks into the store is tied to the card they tapped on.
The fluidity and ease of shopping that automation offers certainly seems to be on the cutting edge of technology. However, it also requires some accountability on the part of every buyer, especially when items are brought back to the right place when their mind changes.
The use of smarter technologies is also associated with skepticism in a market that is not often exposed to it. With the store’s cameras and sensors tracking your movement from the very first moment, you may have privacy concerns.
However, the presence of the cameras in the Aye Smart Store is for security purposes only, assured Yee Yun.
No strings attached
Regarding the information associated with your card, Yun Lim made it clear that the Aye Smart Store does not store any personal data in its backend. The same applies to bank information.
“As far as banking information is concerned, like a bank, the payment terminal belongs to the financial services provider, and all information is stored by them. The financial service provider acts as an intermediary between the Aye Smart Store and the customer. “
The only piece of information Aye requests is a customer’s cell phone number in order to send a verification code for purchases. It also acts as a contact point.
The store gets set up despite its opening being delayed by the MCO / Image Credit: Aye Solutions
Aye’s POC store is located in Glenmarie. Yun Lim hopes it will introduce Aye’s technology to consumers, business owners and investors alike.
“This is important because such an integrated autonomous retail solution does not yet exist in the local market. We want people to experience the technology firsthand and understand the real meaning of a high tech-assisted lifestyle, ”she said.
By establishing the POC, Aye’s engineering team can also improve their services. They will then make improvements that meet the needs of local business owners and consumers alike.
Although the MCOs have made Malaysians more open to online shopping for the essentials, I believe Aye is not only shopping for consumers, it is also providing a new experience for consumers.
I’m interested to see what types of brands and products the Aye Smart Store will carry as this can determine how often I would return as a customer if the novelty wears off.
However, Yee Yun added that there is a reason to visit the smart store to experience something new as, like most convenience stores, it sells both consumable and non-consumable items.
A business that functions with little to no contact between people and a better crowd control system, Yee Yun also sees Aye as having a vital role in fulfilling people’s desires for offline shopping during the pandemic.
Editor’s update: Parts of this article have been edited to ensure the accuracy of the statements.
- Find out more about Aye Solutions here.
- You can find more Malaysian startups here.
Selected image source: Yee Yun Lim, founder of Aye Solutions / Touch To Go at Akabane Station, Japan