Unmanned, AI-powered Cheers outlet opens at Our Tampines Hub

Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli (right) being briefed by Cheers general manager Chua Boon Keat (in blue) at the new Cheers store in Our Tampines Hub yesterday, along with FairPrice's group CEO Seah Kian Peng (second from l
Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli (right) being briefed by Cheers general manager Chua Boon Keat (in blue) at the new Cheers store in Our Tampines Hub yesterday, along with FairPrice's group CEO Seah Kian Peng (second from left) and chief procurement officer Tng Ah Yiam.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

At the new Cheers convenience store in Our Tampines Hub, you can walk in, grab the items you need and walk out without having to whip out your phone, credit card or cash to make payment.

Thanks to an advanced artificial intelligence (AI) system in the outlet that tracks customers' actions, items removed from shelves are recorded automatically and facial recognition technology is used for payment.

Before entering the store for the first time, customers must download the Cheers SG app and add their Visa account as their mode of payment. They can use the facial recognition technology in the app or scan a unique QR code to enter the store.

As the AI system in the store and the app are linked, the app will automatically record the items that customers pick up in a virtual shopping cart. As they walk out of the store, the items will be charged to their Visa cards.

Cameras dot the store's ceiling, and the AI element that tracks human behaviour can detect theft.

For instance, if someone opens a can of soda, drinks from it, and returns it to the shelf, the all-watching AI system will block him from entering the store the next time.

The novel unmanned store was launched by Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli yesterday.

Over the next two to three months, only customers with Visa accounts can patronise the 24-hour store. Other payment methods such as DBS PayLah! and credit cards from other banks will be added to the app.

Cheers is a subsidiary of supermarket chain FairPrice.

Mr Masagos, the MP for the Tampines West ward of Tampines GRC, said that moving towards AI-powered, unmanned stores is the way to go as this is aligned with the country's Smart Nation initiative and helps to manage manpower constraints in the retail sector.

"The store's technology allows FairPrice to expand its Cheers outlets to many places very quickly, without the constraints of manpower, especially at night, when it is very hard to find workers who are able to do shift duty," he said.

The Cheers SG app can also register more than one person, meaning children and the elderly who do not have a smartphone or credit card can still enter the store and buy items, as long as their family member's app has their facial biometrics recorded. The items will be charged to their family member's credit card registered to the app.

The store is piloting the new AI system, and if the technology and app prove successful, the system may be rolled out to other Cheers outlets in the future, said Mr Seah Kian Peng, group chief executive of FairPrice Group.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 13, 2020, with the headline 'Unmanned, AI-powered Cheers outlet opens at Our Tampines Hub'. Print Edition | Subscribe