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Amazon Go store in Seattle

Amazon offers cashier-free checkout service to other retailers

Image credit: REUTERS/Jason Redmond

Amazon has announced plans to offer its cashier-free checkout service, 'Just Walk Out', for use by other retailers.

The technology was implemented at Amazon’s first bricks-and-mortar shop, Amazon Go, in Seattle in 2018. The system allows customers to "just walk out" (hence the name) without having to queue to pay for their items. They begin by checking in with an app at the entrance and complete their shopping while a system of cameras and other sensors around the shop detects the items selected (which would not require bar codes), automatically billing the customer after they leave.

The technology appeared in similar Amazon Go shops in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York City, as well as in a full-size supermarket in Seattle which opened last month.

There has been speculation that Amazon has been showcasing the technology as a prelude to offering it to other retailers.

The 'Just Walk Out' system which Amazon is offering retailers operates slightly differently to the Amazon Go system, requiring the insertion of a credit card at the entrance, which is billed as they leave the shop. The “world’s most advanced shopping technology” uses ceiling-mounted cameras, weight sensors and computer vision to detect which items shoppers have selected. Reuters reported that Amazon has already signed “several” deals with unnamed customers. It is expected to be used at smaller shops, including airport shops, before being introduced to larger shops.

It remains to be seen whether shoppers will be discouraged from visiting shops fitted with the system on account of privacy concerns, although given that Amazon is already the world’s largest online retailer (indicating widespread acceptance or apathy towards its aggressive data-collection practices) this may be unlikely.

Dilip Kumar, Amazon VP of physical retail and technology, told Reuters: “Do customers like standing in lines? This has pretty broad applicability across store sizes, across industries, because it fundamentally tackles a problem of how do you get convenience in physical locations, especially when people are hard-pressed for time.”

According to estimates from Loup Ventures, the nascent market for cashier-free retail – potentially largely underpinned by Amazon technology – could grow to $50bn. A San Francisco-based company called Standard Cognition has already fitted its AI-powered checkout technology in several shops in the US, while 7 Eleven has started trialling its own cashier-free technology.

If the technology is adopted widely, it is likely to seriously impact the retail job market, with shop workers' responsibilities reduced to more menial tasks such as stocking shelves and greeting shoppers, although even these jobs could become increasingly automated or be performed by android robots.

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