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YI Tunnel: Enhancing the Shopping Experience with Computer Vision
“Nobody believed me when I spoke to people about utilizing Artificial Intelligence (AI) in an offline retail outlet to deliver the experience of an eCommerce platform,” begins Yili Wu, founder and CEO of YI Tunnel, shedding light on a journey that started in the year 2016. Wu’s ambition of understanding customer preferences, purchasing behavior, and product recommendations with the use of AI stems from the idea of online shopping, where an eCommerce site continuously learns about customers through their shopping habits. Despite hardships such as having to sell his Beijing apartment to fund his dream, Wu’s vision has manifested into a company that has mastered the art of delivering automated retail solutions through technologies such as AI, big data analytics, and computer vision.
YI Tunnel specializes in image recognition, motion semantic recognition, and facial identification. By employing minimalistic cameras, the company enables retailers to understand the in-store shopping patterns of customers to effectively enhance the purchasing experience. These cameras utilize machine learning algorithms to determine the products that have been picked up by customers, thereby automating the checkout procedures without any human intervention. YI Tunnel’s unmanned store solution recognizes a customer walking into the outlet with the aid of facial recognition and human skeleton dynamic tracking technology.
“We achieved quite a few things with the use of cameras. Be it a vending machine or a food and beverage (F&B) cabinet, our computer vision technology can seamlessly integrate with retail kiosks of different configurations,” explains Wu. The YI Tunnel team firmly believes that usage of barcodes and serial numbers for product identification is redundant in the current day and age, as AI can perform the same operations in a simpler and more efficient manner. YI Tunnel’s AI-enabled smart shelf systems ensure that customers need not worry about the weight of products such as fruits and vegetables as they are determined by relevant sensors automatically. These systems also empower the retailers by efficiently managing inventory levels of the outlet, considering the number of products picked up by customers, replenishment rate of items on the shelf, and logistics operations.
YI Tunnel recently collaborated with one of the largest telecom companies in the Middle East, helping them launch an automated store in September 2018. The client aspired to broaden their reach and enter smart retail and smart city businesses, and YI Tunnel’s AI-enabled vending machines and smart cabinets played a crucial role in attaining their business objectives. “Our unique value proposition is that not only are our solutions smarter but they are also cheaper and more cost-effective compared to the ones offered by the rest of the solution providers. We can convert a regular cabinet or a cooler into a smart one with our computer vision technology and AI-driven automation algorithms,” adds Wu.
Since its early days of inception, YI Tunnel’s trajectory has followed the ambitions of the founder, upholding the philosophy of leveraging AI to deliver a streamlined shopping experience to consumers. Through this approach, the company has carried out successful retail projects across the US, Asia Pacific, and the Middle Eastern markets. Wu says that Yi Tunnel will continue to expand its global presence by venturing into the European and South American regions, showcasing its retail arsenal to a broader demographic.