Since December 2016, Amazon have been testing their ‘checkoutless’ supermarket in Seattle, Washington. To identify each customer and what they’ve purchased, ceiling-mounted cameras and sensors have been installed, as well as a phone application that the customer would use to enter the store. Shelved items sit on sensors that track inventory. When the already identified customer picks an item off the shelf, that items is deducted from the store inventory and logged in the customer’s digital shopping cart.
The store was expected to open to customers far earlier in 2017, however, problems identifying shoppers of similar body types, as well as items being moved to different places on shelves have led to setbacks. Head of Amazon Go, Gianna Puerini said, “This technology didn’t exist – it was really advancing the state of the art of computer vision and machine learning”.
The tech conglomerate has been running brick and mortar retail stores since 2015, beginning with a book store in Seattle before expanding to another 12 stores across the rest of the US. As yet, Amazon has no plans to introduce their ‘checkoutless’ technology to their Whole Foods stores, a chain they acquired in 2016 for $13.7billion.
The technology behind Amazon Go was patented in 2014, before they released a video introducing the frictionless shopping concept to the world. Stores using this technology will have an enormous competitive advantage over all others, as it is known that the faster customers can make their purchases, the more likely they are to return. Just as they dominate the internet with Amazon Web Services – the cloud computing ‘super server’ used to host and organise such sites as Netflix, Pintrest and NASA – Amazon have set themselves up to dominate the $25trillion retail industry by becoming the sole suppliers of the frictionless shopping technology. “You will see more expansion from us”, said Amazon’s CFO, Brian Olsavsky, “it’s still early, so those plans will develop over time”.
Image Credit: Amazon