The Swiss computer vision startup Advertima has launched a Series A worth 15 million euros (~ 17.5 million US dollars) to build a machine learning platform for retail stores that enables the shopping experience with real-time analysis of the Buyer behavior can be improved. The round is led by the existing shareholder Fortimo Group, a Swiss real estate company.
Powered by visual sensors, Advertima’s The platform provides physical retail space with a real-time view of what’s going on in the store – consisting of AI-based behavioral and demographic analysis as shoppers move through the room – with the goal of helping retailers better understand and dynamically approach customers in the store react.
The startup calls this its “Human Data Layer”
With digital signage (which is also offered) and its platform, contextual messages can be provided that are intended for one or only a few pairs of eyeballs nearby – e.g. B. Product offerings for a specific gender or age group or discounts for families. depending on who is in the vicinity of the respective digital eye.
However, the relevance depends on the caliber of the AI and the quality of the underlying training data. So certainly not a matter of course. Ads that appeal to you personally when you make eye contact have been a staple of science fiction for years, of course. However, the reality of “smart” ads informed by AI Analytics could very quickly get into creepy territory.
A sample message that is shown in a demo video on the Advertima website is not particularly good in this regard – since the system identifies a stick woman and a targeted message that reads “Hello young woman. All alone? “(Uhhh 😬). Retailers who put such things in their stores must therefore be hypersensitive to tone and context (and indeed have to take a robust approach to judge how accurate the AI is or not).
Or they could find buyers fleeing horror. (tl; dr nobody likes to feel watched while shopping. And if the AI disapproves of a potential customer, it could be a disaster.)
A striking promise from Advertima is that its approach to using AI to reach guests who are in business and what they do is “privacy-proof” – whereby the startup finds that, on the one hand, there is no facial recognition or biometric recognition in its system gives.
It also states that the visual sensors required for the analysis to function do not store any image or video recordings. Instead, it is claimed that “only minimal anonymized data is processed” – and only evaluated in “aggregated form”.
“This means that the unintentional identification of a person is technically impossible,” says the top-line claim.
Given the long-standing data protection laws that cover Europe and the EU legislator, which is actively considering new rules to cover certain applications of artificial intelligence, there is a legal incentive not to overdo the urgency of such technologies (at least for local use cases) . While Switzerland, which is not a member of the EU (although it is part of the block’s internal market), is also known for strict national data protection laws, the pitch of this domestic start-up at least reflects this context.
However, the system seems to generate a “person ID” (see figure below). So we asked how long these individually linked IDs will be kept. and whether it links (or enables) the person ID to other data that the buyer may collect, such as B. an email or a device ID. If the person IDs are permanent, a retailer can identify a person again using the visually recorded behavior data of Advertima and incorporate this “knowledge” of offline shopping behavior into an identity-linked customer database or link it to an ad profile that is provided by a tracking giant or data broker managed for ad targeting purposes. All of this would be the opposite of “data protection safe” – so we have questions. We will update this report with every response from Advertima.
Advertima was founded in 2016 and has so far partnered with Switzerland’s largest retailer, Migros, and the international food retailer SPAR to use its technology. It is said that the system is currently used by 14 companies in eight countries.
The new financing will further develop and scale its platform so that the company can better address the global market for intelligent retail solutions. Although it competes in an area that includes Amazon’s cashless technology, this is a major Goliath-sized tech competitor for Advertimas David.
A press release announcing Serie A indicates that it will also raise 10 million euros of its own revenue. This means that a total of 25 million euros will be spent on building their platform over the next two years.
“We see a world in which the physical and digital layers are brought together to improve our daily professional and private lives,” said Iman Nahvi, co-founder and CEO of Advertima, in a statement.
In a blog post that announced Series A, he also spoke about the autonomous store product – and suggested that it “will change the way people experience grocery shopping, movie theaters, hardware stores, and a whole host of retailers “.
“By providing intelligent inventory management, autonomous checkout, in-store analytics and contextual content on smart digital screens, groceries and other retailers can maximize the efficiency of their stores, increase their earnings and achieve higher returns per square meter,” he wrote.
“Retailers can implement an omnichannel strategy to create better experiences and relationships with their audience. The standard for retailers will soon be holistically customer-oriented: cash registers, no queues, individual experiences and product recognition in real time for fast, easy and entertaining shopping. “
Given this Amazon Earlier this year, its just walk out technology was licensed to other retailers. Various technology startups have used the potential of similar systems such as AiFi, Grabango, Standard Cognition and Zippin. The global growth ambitions of Advertima are thereby alleviated a lot of competition.
The physical retail sector has also been hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Although COVID-19 can paradoxically boost demand for cashless technology – to reduce the risk of virus exposure for employees and buyers.
However, AI technology to eliminate retail jobs also raises broader socio-economic issues.
Also commented in a supporting statement, Fortimo Group Founder Remo Bienz added: “It is clear that the rapid digitization of our society will have an impact on consumer habits, especially in retail. Advertima is state of the art in retail. As a long-time shareholder, we know how visionary their technology is, but also how it has been successfully adopted by large global organizations and has already generated substantial income. We are happy to be part of Advertima’s journey. “