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First ‘autonomous’ supermarket opens in Lisbon – challenging the Amazon Go experience

Shoppers' purchases are stored in a virtual basket in the Continente Labs store. Image courtesy of Sensei

Portuguese food retailer Continente has opened its first ‘autonomous’ supermarket in Lisbon, using technology to do away with the need for checkouts – or queues. 

The Continente Labs shop in central Lisbon, which opened this week, is powered by Sensei technology that takes on the Amazon Go ‘just walk out’ experience, now live in Amazon’s own grocery stores in the US and London.

Shoppers must download the Continente Labs app in order to use the store. On it, they generate a QR code in order to enter the shop, choose the goods they want to buy and leave – without the need to queue or to pay in store. The app then receives a digital receipt for the purchases. 

Sensei’s autonomous technology underpins the autonomous technology, bringing together cameras, sensors and machine learning algorithms. Working together, they track shoppers’ movements as they add or remove items from shelves, keeping a virtual basket updated in real time. Sensei says shoppers’ identities remain anonymous while they are in the store, since no biometrical or face recognition technology is used.

Frederico Santos, director of innovation and digital transformation at Continente parent company Sonae MC, says:  “Since we met Sensei at the end of 2018 we have been extremely excited and committed to together rethink the store shopping experience. It has been a pleasure and a constant learning process for both sides, having solves complex tech challenges and continuously improved our business processes. The opening of this store marks an important milestone in what we are sure to be a long and fruitful partnership between both companies.”

Vasco Portugal, chief executive and co-founder of Sensei, says: “The store of the future is a concept of the past, as we’ve just set autonomous retail as a reality. We are proud to enable a completely transformed experience for both customers and retailers, who are seeking better use of their time, convenience and business optimisation. We’re trilled to partner with such as experienced retailer as Sonae and to count on their trust to pursue a path of pioneering innovation within the sector.”

Sonae MC was founded in 1985 and now has 1,200 grocery shops in formats from hypermarkets to convenience stores across Portugal, including Madeira and the Azores. 

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