After 22 years of changing the way online retailing has worked and being very successful in the process, Amazon is now entering the brick and mortar retail world, which it once tried to replace with its online store front. In the past two years we have seen the creation of an Amazon book store and the buyout of Whole Foods Market. In addition to these high profile locations, a “behind the scenes” experiment known as “Amazon Go” has been underway.
Amazon Go is basically a mini-market. With traditional products like you would see at your corner gas station market, it combines Amazon’s modern look and higher end products without any checkout lines or any kind of a wait.
To shop at the store, bring your own bag, load the app onto your phone, and shop. Each time you take something off the shelf and put it into the bag, it will be added to the virtual shopping cart on your phone. If you take something out of the bag and put it back, it will be removed from the cart on your phone.
The technology behind Amazon’s market is very similar in many ways to what powers a self driving car. There are hundreds of small cameras throughout the store that watch every point on the shelves. A deep learning A.I. monitors all the cameras and is able to add and remove product in the virtual world when you do so in the physical world.
When you leave the store the app computes the total, charges your account, and you are on your way. No checkout. No lines. No wait.
Like all new technology there has to be a trial period, or beta test with the market. While it opens today, January 22, 2018, to the public, the market has been in existence for over a year open only to Amazon employees. The test market was located next to Amazon’s world headquarters to ensure for a large client test group. During that time there had been some glitches with specifically knowing when a product was removed from the bag. It is far enough along now that it is workable for public use.
In short, yes. While there are no checkers there are people to stock the shelves, make ready-to-eat food, and other offerings. There are customer service people available if you want to ask a question or need assistance.
A lot of stores are experimenting with various types of automation. According to Amazon there are no plans to deploy this technology to either the bookstore or Whole Foods Market at this time. We will have to look to the future to see how automated shopping will evolve and even if this basic concept proves to be successful.
William (Bill) Sikkens has been a technology expert for KXL on the Morning Show with Steve and Rebecca since 2014. With an expertise in I.T., cyber security and software design he has had more than 20 years’ experience with advanced technology. Sikkens conceptualizes and designs custom applications for many professional industries from health care to banking and has the ability to explain the details in a way all can understand. Article edited by Gretchen Winkler.
Got a technology question or comment for Bill? Follow him on Twitter @sikkensw