The people of Seattle have something new to look forward to. Amazon, the online retail giant, has opened its first, full-size, cashier-less grocery store in its hometown. In this new store, shoppers can grab their groceries and walk out of it without waiting in line or even opening their wallets. Amazon, for sure, wants to shake up $800 billion grocery industry.
So How Does Amazon’s cashier-less store work?
Amazon has been working on this technology since 2015. The store, which is of 10,400 square feet, uses the same technology as found in the two dozen Amazon Go stores. It’s simple – shoppers walk into the store, scan their QR code from their Amazon app, pick and carry the necessary items in their basket, and simply walk out of the store when done. Hundreds of cameras and sensors continuously monitor what you are buying. These help in identifying the items picked from the shelves. They also help in monitoring what has been removed from the customer’s cart in case they pick it up and later decide to return it. It doesn’t require any kind of human interaction, though there are enough store staff to restock the shelves and answer the shopper’s questions. A virtual cart in the Amazon app adds all the items picked up and the payment is done online.
With around 5000 items available, the store has fresh produce, seafood, bakery items, meat and dairy, meal kits and also a section for liquor. All items are priced individually, which means no weighing is necessary
Cameron Janes, Vice President of Amazon’s physical retail units, says that the technology was tweaked a bit to account for how people squeeze the tomatoes to check its ripeness or rummage through the oranges to find the right one. By just scanning one account, families can shop together. But helping a stranger to pick something from the top-shelf will add the item to your account.
Cashier-less stores eliminate the annoyance of waiting in long queues, but the entire experience of shopping becomes different. There’s no one to slice your ham, no deli counter, and no one to bag your groceries.
A lot of stores use RFIDs (Radio Frequency Identification) for self-checkout. But Amazon has upped the game by making use of machine learning and image recognition to venture into cashier-less stores. Amazon is testing if the system is scalable, though at the moment it’s not clear how many such stores it wants to open.