UK supermarkets including Tesco and Sainsbury, not to mention several thousand employees, will be nervously looking over their shoulder as Amazon opens its first supermarket without any checkouts.
Called Amazon Go, the self-service supermarket opens its doors in Amazon’s home town of Seattle today (22/01/18).
In a move that could revolutionise the way we buy groceries, as well a put thousands of supermarket workers on the scrapheap, it – somewhat scarily – uses an array of ceiling-mounted cameras to identify each customer and track which items they select, thereby eliminating the need for billing.
Before entering, shoppers must scan their Amazon Go smartphone app on a reader..Sensors on the shelves then add items to the bill as customers pick them up – and delete any they put back.
Purchases are billed to customers’ credit cards when they leave the store. The online retail giant calls this ‘Just Walk Out Technology’.
Although the Amazon Go store has been open to Amazon employees since December 2016, it has taken until now for the supermarket to go live to the public.
That’s because of teething problems with correctly identifying shoppers of similar body types as well as problems with children moving items to the wrong places on shelves, according to an Amazon insider.
Gianna Puerini, head of Amazon Go, told the BBC the store had operated well during the test phase:
“This technology didn’t exist – it was really advancing the state of the art of computer vision and machine learning.”
Of course, the Seattle store is not Amazon’s first foray into bricks and mortar retailing. In 2015 the firm opened its first physical bookshop, also in Seattle.
There are now 13 in the US – as well as dozens of temporary pop-up outlets. Amazon has not stated if it will be opening more Go stores, which are separate from the Whole Foods chain that it bought last year for $13.7bn (£10.7bn).
However, the company has no plans to introduce the technology to the hundreds of Whole Foods stores.
You can see more information on Amazon Go in this YouTube video below: