Toshiba expands ELERA commerce platform with AI vision, IT microservices, more

Toshiba has developed 45 IT microservices and hundreds of APIs to help retailers integrate apps and try out new ideas.
Written by Tom Foremski, Contributor

Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions this week announced a major expansion of its ELERA commerce platform that first launched one year ago. The company is now adding AI vision recognition and several other key enhancements. 

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Since ELERA's launch, Toshiba has developed 45 IT microservices and hundreds of APIs to help retailers integrate other apps and try out new ideas. 

"The [ELERA] platform is designed to be agile and allow retailers to rapidly implement innovative solutions and either quickly fail or if successful -- then have the ability to scale things across their retail network," said Yevgeni Tsirulnik, Vice President, digital portfolio and innovation at Toshiba.

New features include support for a wide variety of edge devices, such as cameras at the point of checkout that are combined with an AI vision system for a faster self-checkout. The camera can accurately identify loose produce -- such as a potato versus a sweet potato -- and speed up the checkout process without the shopper having to look-up the billing code for the items. 

Toshiba discovered that about 35% of shoppers do not trust self-checkout systems to accurately identify loose produce items. The AI vision system should go a long way in gaining the trust of shoppers to use the self-checkouts.

Edge devices, such as sensors and cameras, can also be used to compile studies on how customers shop. Video and sensor data is converted into a vector-based map of people's movements -- without storing any personal information or images. 

Toshiba also beefed up its data analytics to provide organizations with a central view across all of their retail channels, which were previously operating independently from each other. 

The same approach was used for a new single payments engine able to handle many different forms of payment services. This allows for real-time inventory data, which is essential as retailers combine online ordering with pickup and delivery services. 

Also: Toshiba to split into three standalone businesses

"We are finding that retailers have greatly increased their digital business plans and are moving much faster than we expected. We've had to double the pace of our development," said Tsirulnik.

A recent survey of 2,100 consumers by Toshiba and PYMNTS.com found that more than one-third (35%) reported that they would consider switching retailers based on the quality of the digital engagement. 

ELERA says that its microservices IT architecture helps to make the platform future-proof. Even though retail hardware will change,  there will be no need to recreate core IT services. 

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