The retail industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by e-commerce, data analytics, inventory management and risk mitigation, and the growing importance of technologies such as artificial intelligence, and virtual reality and augmented reality. In the last three years alone, there have been over 156,000 patents filed and granted in the retail industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Innovation in retail: self-checkout. Buy the report here.

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 stabilizing 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.

50+ 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 115,000 patents, there are 50+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, on-demand digital manufacturing, planogram optimization, and AR-assisted shopping are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Location-based personalization, personalized lookbooks, and self-checkout are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are in-store shopping assistance and digital signage personalization, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for the retail industry

Self-checkout is a key innovation area in retail

Self-checkout refers to the terminals where customers can scan and bag their own products at retail outlets, without a cashier. The device is integrated with the self-checkout system including weight sensors, a scanning system, and point-of-sale (PoS) terminal for making payments.

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 40+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established retail companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of self-checkout.

Key players in self-checkout – a disruptive innovation in the retail industry

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

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

Patent volumes related to self-checkout

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Toshiba 123 Unlock company profile
Walmart 52 Unlock company profile
Canadian National Railway 44 Unlock company profile
Alibaba Group 37 Unlock company profile
Trax Technology Solutions 37 Unlock company profile
Serve Virtual Enterprises 36 Unlock company profile
NEC 35 Unlock company profile
Everseen 24 Unlock company profile
Digimarc 23 Unlock company profile
Amazon.com 20 Unlock company profile
J Sainsbury 17 Unlock company profile
PayPal 17 Unlock company profile
Hydra 16 Unlock company profile
Seven & i 14 Unlock company profile
JD.com 11 Unlock company profile
NCR 10 Unlock company profile
TERAOKA SEIKO 9 Unlock company profile
Visa 9 Unlock company profile
Beijing Electronics 8 Unlock company profile
Mastercard 8 Unlock company profile
Shenzhen Genuine Innovative Technology 8 Unlock company profile
Retail Technologies 8 Unlock company profile
LG 8 Unlock company profile
Hallmark Cards 7 Unlock company profile
Yi Tunnel (Beijing) Technology 7 Unlock company profile
Block 6 Unlock company profile
Instrumentmail 6 Unlock company profile
Furukawa 5 Unlock company profile
Beijing Jingdong Technology 5 Unlock company profile
Focal Systems 5 Unlock company profile
SK Telecom 5 Unlock company profile
Mashgin 5 Unlock company profile
American Express 4 Unlock company profile
Mercari 4 Unlock company profile
Advanced New Technologies 4 Unlock company profile
Adroit Worldwide Media 3 Unlock company profile
Ishida 3 Unlock company profile
Illinois Tool Works 3 Unlock company profile
International Business Machines 2 Unlock company profile
Fast Retailing 2 Unlock company profile
JPMorgan Chase 2 Unlock company profile
Global Foundries 2 Unlock company profile
Beijing Jingdong Century Trading 1 Unlock company profile
AiFi 1 Unlock company profile
Snap 1 Unlock company profile
Verizon Patent And Licensing 1 Unlock company profile
Target 1 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

The leading players in the self-checkout space in terms of patents filed are Canadian National Railway, Walmart, Toshiba and Alibaba Group. In December 2022, Toshiba announced the launch of Self-Checkout System 7, an innovative self-checkout kiosk designed with more customer-centric features that enable a wide range of personalization options. The new model is also compact, making it a good fit for retail stores of all sizes.

Digimarc, Verizon Patent and Licensing, and Focal Systems are the top companies in this space in terms of application diversity.

 The leading companies in terms of geographic reach are Canadian National Railway, Serve Virtual Enterprises, and Trax Technology Solutions.

Self-checkout terminals are becoming more relevant for retailers as they look to make shopping a more hassle-free experience for shoppers, while improving efficiency of checkout lanes and expedite enterprise reporting. To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the retail industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Retail.

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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.