In January, Amazon Triple Dog Dared the world to pocket goods from the shelves of their new experimental AmazonGo convenience store. This Just Walk Out Technology is a gauntlet run at the retail sector, that not only frees the customer from lines, the thief from non-payments, but, possibly, the cashier from the cash register.
The first and only Amazon Go store opened in Seattle in January. This new store adds another facet to Amazon’s dominance. This time in a market segment that Amazon could not match with shipping costs- that of instant food access and convenience.
The 1,800 sq ft cashier-less convenience/prepared foods store is a prototype utilizing cutting-edge technology to make sweeping changes to how we, or, at least those of us in downtown Seattle, shop.
What Powers Amazon Go?
The Sensor Suite in place at Amazon Go includes:
Scanners at the store entrance identify users through the Amazon Go smartphone App. For speed of use and convenience, this is a 2D barcode scanner (camera) that reads your phone screen. This important step identifies the shopper’s presence in the store (and that of family members).
Pervasive Boxy Black Surveillance-like Cameras watch a shopper’s move, and inspect and pickup items in store. The cameras also include infrared sensors that likely help determine the difference between bodies and bottles of cold beer. While not disclosed, the cameras surely also watch the food status on shelves for movement.
Every product has a camera-friendly code. For branded foods, product packaging, size and colors help determine product selection via camera, while large format 2D bar codes help identify individual prepared food items.
To help identify product movement, stock, and product pickup, load cell sensors are employed on every shelf to add one more data points.
It is assumed that this total sensor suite, dubbed “Just Walk Out Technology” relies heavily on cameras, and then more so on the massive processing needs for Machine Learning Systems and Computer Vision-Image Processing Tech found in self-driving cars and Facebook.
Can Just Walk Out Technology Scale?
I believe that Amazon Go can Scale with the exception of products that are too small to fit a barcode, too light to trigger a shelf sensor, or too small to escape the shadow of a hand. Chapstick anyone? (Maybe Rep. Joe Kennedy was there)
I believe Just Walk Out will be wildly successful and likely licensed to other stores as a service (You can checkout with Amazon on an ecommerce site if you like- so it is in their business model).
Regardless of success, there are some challenges ahead yet to be faced by Amazon Go which include:
- Ever Smarter Shoplifters (barcode printer, replacement weights)
- Weight Scales for Bulk Goods
- Technology Costs for 50,000 square foot retail footprints
- The costs of Backup Systems in the case of technology outages
- Technology Lifecycle costs and breakdowns for stores that age
- Men with Male Pattern Baldness who don’t like being watched from above
A Brave New World of Technology
Amazon Go is providing a view into the future of a fully connected world. The various connected sensor systems reflect a microcosm of the Internet of Things in a smaller retail footprint.
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