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WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

Most companies understand the concept of the “Frictionless customer experience” but very few of them are any good at it, Amazons latest store demonstrates what you can achieve if you have vision and a willingness to experiment.

 

No cash? No time to wait? No wish to stand in close proximity to another human? No problem, says Amazon, which has announced a new store that makes use of sensing and artificial intelligence (AI) to do away with the checkout altogether.

There’s just one shop so far, in Amazon’s hometown of Seattle. Called Amazon Go, its modest 1,800 square feet of retail space has a very time-poor kind of customer in mind. There are ready-to-eat meals, basic groceries, and meal kits to cook at home lining its shelves.

 

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But the experience of buying goods from this store is certainly not one for the privacy advocates among us. Upon arrival, you have to scan an app to pass through the entrance – like you do with a digital boarding pass. From this point on, it knows you’re there, and can keep track of what you do.

Amazon says that the store uses a mixture of on shelf sensing, sensor fusion, artificial intelligence and machine vision technologies to keep track of every item you pick up, adding each one to a virtual shopping cart, and removing items that you put back. When you leave, it double checks the list by detecting the items you’re removing from the store and charges your Amazon account, leaving you to eat your sandwich without having to stand in line for a single moment. This, it seems, is how people shop in the future.

 

 

Amazon Go joins a history of attempts to automate the grocery store. Keedoozle tried its luck in 1937 with a system of conveyor belts, glass cabinets, and personalised keys to remove people from the process, though it shut down when its back end couldn’t support its popularity. Then, earlier this year, a supermarket in Sweden opened that uses an app to grant access to customers, although it demands people scan barcodes via their phone – essentially a souped up Scan and Go mock up that’s already used within many supermarket chains that worked on a tech enabled trust model that used CCTV as backup. Nothing as frictionless as Amazon’s latest store.

Amazon looks to be running a much tighter ship. While finding ways to circumvent the system may appeal to hackers, it sounds as if most ordinary folks would find themselves unable to cheat a system bristling with sensors and cameras that monitor shoppers’ every move.

 

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If it works as advertised, lifting products off the shelves and simply walking out may become the new way to shop – part of Amazon’s bet on the idea that delivering unparalleled convenience will keep customers coming back.

About author

Matthew Griffin

Matthew Griffin, described as “The Adviser behind the Advisers” and a “Young Kurzweil,” is the founder and CEO of the 311 Institute, a global futures and deep futures consultancy working between the dates of 2020 to 2070, and is an award winning futurist, and author of “Codex of the Future.” Regularly featured in the global media, including AP, BBC, CNBC, Discovery, RT, and Viacom, Matthew’s ability to identify, track, and explain the impacts of hundreds of revolutionary emerging technologies on global culture, industry and society, is unparalleled. Recognised for the past six years as one of the world’s foremost futurists, innovation and strategy experts Matthew is an international speaker who helps governments, investors, multi-nationals and regulators around the world envision, build and lead an inclusive, sustainable future. A rare talent Matthew’s recent work includes mentoring Lunar XPrize teams, re-envisioning global education and training with the G20, and helping the world’s largest organisations envision and ideate the future of their products and services, industries, and countries. Matthew's clients include three Prime Ministers and several governments, including the G7, Accenture, Bain & Co, BCG, BOA, Blackrock, Bentley, Credit Suisse, Dell EMC, Dentons, Deloitte, Du Pont, E&Y, GEMS, HPE, Huawei, JPMorgan Chase, KPMG, McKinsey, PWC, Qualcomm, SAP, Samsung, Sopra Steria, UBS, and many more.

Comments
  • Gina Clifford#1

    8th December 2016

    Love the idea and I’d use right now if were available in my area. Ultimately, however, it would be even better to do the whole ordering process online and have the groceries delivered within 1/2 hour. That way, I wouldn’t even need to waste time to drive, park and then find all my stuff in the isles!

    Reply
  • Paul Sloane#2

    8th December 2016

    Sounds great to me………..

    Reply
  • Anjo van den Brink#3

    9th December 2016

    Yes Gina: Or order online in 1 click and get it at home delivered without to be home in your (personal) temperature controlled locker.

    Reply

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