By Amruth Chinnappa
Amazon has successfully solved one of the greatest woes of the 21st-century consumer, i.e. endless checkout lines at the local supermarket. The company opened their long-awaited Amazon Go store in Seattle recently. The enterprise removes the need for cashiers because cameras identify the commodities and directly charges them to the customer’s Amazon app.
The eye in the sky
The 1800 square feet store has dozens of box-like cameras inside which record a customerís every move, and their eventual purchase. The customer has to connect to the app upon entering and can proceed to take items off the shelf. The cameras are equipped with infrared sensors and read the product code, matching it with weight sensors from the shelf to identify the item. After the items are placed in their shopping bag, an online receipt is sent to their phones as the customers walk out.
The company has not revealed the exact technology behind the system but hints that it is similar to the machine learning techniques behind driverless cars and computer vision tech used in the tagging feature of Facebook photos. “The majority of sensing is from above,” said Kumar, the Amazon Go executive. “Cameras figure out which interactions you have with the shelves. Computer vision figures out which items are taken. Machine-learning algorithms also determine which item it is.”
Savings in store for retailers
The store was first announced in 2017 by the e-commerce giant to attract customers in an ever-increasing market. The idea seems to have worked, as stocks rose by 2.5% with founder Jeff Bezos cashing in $2.8 billion from the move. The technology could also go a long way to prevent shoplifting. Potential offenders would have to think twice about making a move with dozens of cold eyes on their backs. The United States of America (USA) alone reported a loss of $44 billion dollars as a result of shoplifting. Amazon Go and other similar stores could act as a pivotal instrument in curbing this situation.
What could go wrong?
The technology itself has its share of critics who argue about the data being misused in the future. “It’s not just the transaction,” said Danielle Citron, a law professor and privacy expert at the University of Maryland’s law school. “Powerful companies like Amazon don’t just have what you bought at the grocery store, but they’re also connected with and combined with nearly every aspect of your life, including where people live and what they buy, read and watch“. Others voice their concern about it changing the spending behaviour of customers. “The less time we have to think about how much we’re spending, the more removed we are from the process,” said Kit Yarrow, a professor of psychology and marketing at Golden Gate University. With a focus on a fast purchase, consumers might not think about their spending and could persist for the pleasure of the moment.
Implications for the retail-scape
It also means a changed perspective for millions of retail workers. They would now be relegated to help people out in the store search for items and check the age-limit for alcohol as in the case of Amazon Go. Automation creates problems on its own but also provides its set of solutions. Progress, however, cannot be halted and can throw open new jobs for the people. Amazon has spent $13.7 billion on buying hundreds of whole foods grocery stores in the region. As of now, the company has not revealed any plans for a large-scale expansion but analysts predict that an expansion is indeed on the cards.
Featured Image Source: Wikipedia
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