Changing your checkout experience at the grocery store

Published: Apr. 29, 2019 at 7:22 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - There's a happy medium between waiting in a long checkout line at the grocery store, and having to do it yourself at the self-checkout.

It is called accelerated checkout and some of the technology is being developed just a couple of hours away from Charlotte.

In fact it is powered by some graduates of one of our most well-known universities.

"There are 14 cameras and they can read the bar code no matter how you place the item on the belt, no matter if they are flat or upright," Felice Manget told us as she walked us through how The Raptor works.

The staff at ECRS in Boone, NC call it the grocery checkout lane of the future. At one end of the moving belt stands the customer, placing their items one at a time. On the other end is an attendant carefully bagging the groceries. In the middle, the cameras and high-tech software inside the machine do the rest of the work.

"Our software and our company are wherever transactions occur in a grocery store. At the scales in the deli, the cash registers, the self checkout, they are all talking to one another to streamline the experience through the store," company CEO Pete Catoe told us.

Catoe dropped out of Appalachian State University a few months early a couple of decades ago to start a company with an original mission to connect store cash registers to personal computers. It was innovative at the time.

However, ECRS isn't trying to compete with the companies who set up their tech in the big national chains. Their focus is the local and regional retailer.

"When you take the connectedness of a local retailer with their community, and give them good technology, they have an advantage over the larger players and now they're really competitive," Catoe told us.

Of the 150 people the company employs, many are App State graduates. The company has a strong partnership with the university and its computer science students.

“They get more responsibility faster and they aren’t just another number like they might be if they were to work for a larger technology firm. We just have some phenomenal skills coming out of that school,” Catoe said.

To be clear, the software technology isn’t just in grocery stores. It can also be found in bottle shops, pharmacies, even at App State. As for the Raptor, it isn’t in too many places right now but ECRS is getting ready to position it in some stores in Tennessee.

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