Coles is taking extreme measures to combat self-service checkout theft by installing tablet-sized cameras on top of its self-service checkouts in up to a dozen supermarkets across Victoria.
The cameras are installed directly above the self-service monitor, with every move made at the checkout broadcast back to the shopper and recorded on file.
Eight million self-service transactions are made each week at Coles, with the new security measure to be coupled with undercover security officers already deployed in stores across the nation.
Overall, theft costs Australian retailers $9.3 billion per year – or 3 per cent of their total annual turnover.
“The trial is still underway in a small number of Victorian Coles supermarkets,” a spokeswoman told nine.com.au.
The trial follows a Coles in northern Sydney installing similar security cameras and screens on top of baby formula shelves to combat bulk buyers re-selling it overseas to Chinese customers.
Coles isn’t the only company to be running trials to combat self-service checkout theft, with Melbourne robotics firm black.ai currently running trials of its technology across several unnamed supermarkets in New South Wales and Hong Kong.
The company said the system is more proactive than recording self-service checkouts and comes into play the second a customer takes a product off the shelf.
“Black.ai’s autonomous supermarket platform maps and monitors the state of your store in real-time using a small number of discrete 3D sensors built into the ceiling space,” explained the company.
The sensors and cameras create a log of the products the customer selects and this information is input into the checkout at the time of purchase.
“Our distributed decision-making stack maintains a virtual ‘cart’ for each customer, reliably detecting and tracking all product interactions,” it explained.
“Large-scale installation takes days, and immediately provides you with customer data of unprecedented depth.”
Another Australian company, Tiliter Technology, has developed a similar automated product recognition system that promises to reduce checkout theft “without the need to invade privacy”.
The technology, based on machine learning and artificial intelligence, uses a camera to identify the product and then automatically enters the information into the point-of-sale system.
Tiliter Technology claim its system is so smart it can even tell the difference between varied products from the same family such as Red Delicious, Fuji, Pink Lady and Royal Gala Apples.
The company said the technology can “integrate with all leading manufacturer brands” and only requires the supermarket to “plugin camera and run the system locally”.
In January this year 20 shoplifters were nabbed for self-service checkout theft in Rockhampton, which followed a woman receiving a suspended sentence for an elaborate barcode scam that enabled her to steal $4500 in groceries from Coles and Woolworths
The woman photocopied the barcodes from 65c and 72c packets of two-minute noodles, which she then printed and glued to sticky labels and then stuck on more expensive items.
Last year research firm Canstar Blue revealed that 7 per cent of people admitted to stealing an item without scanning it, while 9 per cent admitted to not paying the full price by scanning the item as a cheaper alternative.