Amazon, the ecommerce giant, is contemplating the expansion of its shelf-monitoring solution, initially introduced in India, to undergo pilot trials across various regions.
With a strong focus on Amazon Fresh, the company recently launched its shelf monitoring solution in India. This machine learning-driven farm-to-fridge quality assurance system for fresh produce was introduced last month. Amazon’s goal with this system is to empower its sellers to meet the high standards of consumers’ demands for top-notch fresh fruits and vegetables.
According to Rajeev Rastogi, Vice President of International Machine Learning at Amazon, the most crucial customer input for the grocery system is the quality of the produce. This quality is the key factor that encourages repeat purchases. He further noted that manual assessment is neither scalable nor highly reliable due to its susceptibility to errors.
The store shelf monitoring solution leverages computer vision models and Wi-Fi-enabled IoT cameras. These technologies collaborate to detect pre-defined defects in fruits and vegetables by analyzing images of crates as their input data.
Presently, the shelf monitoring solution offers two modes of operation: manual monitoring through the Johari mobile app and automated monitoring via cameras positioned atop the produce shelves. During manual monitoring, operators utilize the Johari app to submit a produce crate image taken directly from their smartphone.
Rastogi further explained that two distinct models are in operation: the first model recognizes individual pieces of produce and employs segmentation techniques to identify each item within the container. The second model is specifically designed to identify imperfections in the produce itself, such as cracks, cuts, or pressure damage.
In the conventional manual monitoring system, evaluating a crate of produce typically consumes approximately 6 minutes. Remarkably, the automated monitoring system provides a comparable assessment experience while expediting the process through the automated capture of produce images at regular intervals using in-store or shelf-mounted cameras.
Amazon Fresh has significantly broadened its reach in India, now serving over 60 cities compared to just 22 cities a year ago. Srikant Sree Ram, the director of Amazon Fresh, previously mentioned that over 50% of its customer base hails from Tier-II and III cities.
The surge in demand for online grocery shopping has been undeniable, particularly in the wake of the pandemic. However, implementing these business models poses notable challenges. Effective inventory management, the operation of dark stores, and the seamless integration of technology all represent substantial obstacles for players in this sector, including companies such as Zepto, Blinkit, Swiggy Instamart, and others.
The growth of the online grocery sector is expected to reach Tier II and beyond markets, powered by key industry leaders. According to a report by RedSeer, in the calendar year 2023, the market is forecasted to experience expansion in Tier II regions, primarily driven by horizontal players, with the adoption of quick commerce services expected to maintain its consistency.