The retail industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by technology, convenience, and risk mitigation, and growing importance of technologies such as QR codes, RFID technology, smart checkout, and autonomous delivery robots and store assistants. In the last three years alone, there have been over 133,000 patents filed and granted in the retail industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Robotics: Cashierless store. 

However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilising and reaching maturity. 

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have. 

70+ innovations will shape the retail industry 

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the retail industry using innovation intensity models built on over 128,000 patents, there are 70+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry. 

Within the emerging innovation stage, autonomous vending is a disruptive technology that is in the early stage of application and should be tracked closely. Robotic order fulfilment, automated inventory management, and autonomous delivery vehicles are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are cashierless stores and autonomous delivery management, which are now well established in the industry. 

Innovation S-curve for robotics in the retail industry 

Cashierless store is a key innovation area in robotics 

A cashierless store is a store allowing customers to shop for products and make payments at checkout without the need to wait in queues at stills. Such stores are also called checkout-free stores, till-less stores, or just walk out stores. These stores use technologies such as sensors, cameras, deep learning, etc. to monitor and track customer movements for store management purposes.   

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 10+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established retail companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of cashierless stores. 

Key players in cashierless store – a disruptive innovation in the retail industry   

 ‘Application diversity’ measures the number of different applications identified for each relevant patent and broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators. 

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of different countries each relevant patent is registered in and reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’. 

Patent volumes related to cashierless stores

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Toshiba 180 Unlock company profile
Nant Holdings Ip 136 Unlock company profile
Cox Enterprises 120 Unlock company profile
Walmart 102 Unlock company profile
NEC 32 Unlock company profile
Evryx Acquisition 12 Unlock company profile
Trax Technology Solutions 9 Unlock company profile
Mashgin 9 Unlock company profile
Casio Computer 7 Unlock company profile
Wistron 6 Unlock company profile
JPMorgan Chase 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Toshiba is one of the leading patent filers in cashierless store technology. Some other key patent filers in the space include Nant Holdings, Cox Enterprises, Walmart, and NEC. Japanese tech firm Retail AI recently partnered with Toshiba Tec (subsidiary of Toshiba) and its ELERA Commerce Platform to grow its cashierless technology.In terms of application diversity, Cox Enterprises leads the pack. Walmart and Evryx Acquisition stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Wistron held the top position, followed by Toshiba and Mashgin.

Cashierless stores will become more common in the near future as technological advancements become more accessible to the retail sector. The emergence of this format will offer more convenience to customers and help to optimise costs for large retail chains as automation gains traction.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the retail industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Retail

GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.