Amazon has opened the first of its cashierless stores, Amazon Go, in Seattle. Amazon Go is basically a convenience store offering “grocery essentials” as well as ready to eat meals and, of course, their Amazon Meal Kits.
Explains the Amazon Go site at Amazon, “We offer delicious ready-to-eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack options made by our chefs and favorite local kitchens and bakeries. Our selection of grocery essentials ranges from staples like bread and milk to artisan cheeses and locally made chocolates. For a quick home-cooked dinner, pick up one of our chef-designed Amazon Meal Kits, with all the ingredients you need to make a meal for two in about 30 minutes.”
Now, when you hear “cashierless”, you may think “self checkout”, but it’s actually more like no checkout. Here’s how it works:
You download the Amazon Go app (links at the end of this article) to your mobile phone, and log in through the Amazon Go app to your Amazon account. (Notably you do not need Amazon Prime to use Amazon Go.)
This provides Amazon with all of the billing information they need to simply charge your account when you make purchases at an Amazon Go location.
With the Amazon Go app on your phone, you go and …we have to say it … log in to the Amazon Go store. You do this by going to the entrance of the Amazon Go location, and holding a QR code (which they call the Amazon Go Key) in the app to a scanner. This is not unlike movie theatres that now have you scan a QR code to prove your purchase and issue you a ticket. Once your QR code is scanned and you enter the Amazon Go store, the system knows that you are in there.
Based on a series of hundreds of sophisticated cameras with, says Amazon, advanced computer vision and intelligent learning software, the system also knows every single item that you pick up, as well as the ones you put down, and the ones with which you leave the store. That is how it charges you, which it does directly via your Amazon account. When you walk back out (log out) of the Amazon Go store, you are sent a receipt for every item with which you’ve left.
“Our checkout-free shopping experience is made possible by the same types of technologies used in self-driving cars: computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning,” says Amazon.
It should be noted that cashierless does not mean ‘deserted’. There are Amazon staff – associates – at the store. “Our great team of associates works in both the kitchen and the store to prep ingredients, make our ready-to-eat food, stock shelves, and help customers. (Need a product recommendation? Ask an associate!),” says Amazon.
Moreover, you can bring people in with you (you just have to have them enter ahead of you so that you are the last one of your party entering) and, of course, whatever they walk out with will be charged to your account.
Once you are in the Amazon Go store, you will quickly realize that there are no shopping baskets or shopping carts. This is because you place all of your items directly into your shopping bag.
Here’s how Amazon explains the Amazon Go shopping experience: “Our Just Walk Out Technology automatically detects when products are taken from or returned to the shelves and keeps track of them in a virtual cart. When you’re done shopping, you can just leave the store. Shortly after, we’ll send you a receipt and charge your Amazon account.”
So the burning questions that people have about Amazon Go seem to be:
How secure is it in terms of whether people will be able to steal items from the Amazon Go store?
Amazon seems to be pretty darned sure of itself in terms of whether people will actually be able to steal things.
According to Nick Wingfield, in his article about Amazon Go in the New York Times, “Actual shoplifting is not easy at Amazon Go. With permission from Amazon, I tried to trick the store’s camera system by wrapping a shopping bag around a $4.35 four-pack of vanilla soda while it was still on a shelf, tucking it under my arm and walking out of the store. Amazon charged me for it.”
How secure is it in terms of people’s personal information?
Make no mistake – Amazon is collecting vast amounts of data here, including even more information about your personal shopping preferences than they had before, along with, presumably, where you go within the store. They would certainly have the technology, thanks to the cameras, to be storing and analyzing your own personal traffic patterns – such as do you go to the perimeter of the store first? To the deli section first? as well as what you are most likely to buy depending on the day and time of day.
Are the cameras using facial recognition?
Are there other Amazon Go store locations besides Seattle?
Not as of the time of this writing.
Where is the store in Seattle?
The Amazon Go store in Seattle, which at present is also the only Amazon Go store, is located at 2131 7th Ave in Seattle.
Is Amazon going to open other Amazon Go stores in other locations?
Amazon is currently hiring for the Amazon Go project, so it is reasonable to anticipate that, assuming the Seattle store works out and does well, there will be other Amazon Go stores in other locations. Then again, it’s Amazon, so who can tell what they’ll do next?
Why did Amazon do this?
According to Amazon’s Amazon Go page, Amazon says that “We asked ourselves: what if we could create a shopping experience with no lines and no checkout? Could we push the boundaries of computer vision and machine learning to create a store where customers could simply take what they want and go? Our answer to those questions is Amazon Go and Just Walk Out Shopping.”
You can download the Amazon Go app here:
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