My first thought was, who do you ask when you can’t find the hummus? But on second thought, the benefits of a cashierless supermarket could potentially outweigh the costs; I’m yet to decide. On Monday, in downtown Seattle, Amazon opened its first artificial intelligence-powered Amazon Go store.
Having faced technical bugs and a year of testing, Amazon is ready to Go. Using computer vision, machine learning algorithms and sensors- similar technology to that which powers self-driving cars- Amazon Go allows customers to walk in, scan their smartphone at a turnstile with the Amazon Go app, do their shop and leave. Through eliminating the checkout line, customers save time; it’s convenient.
But what about the jobs? Considering a future where all supermarkets follow Amazon’s lead and become cashierless, we’re talking about the loss of, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 3.56 million cashier jobs in the US alone. To put that into perspective, there are currently 6.58 million people unemployed in the US. However, whilst the stores don’t demand cashiers to operate checkouts, personnel will still be needed to restock shelves, make food and help customers (it’s looking likely I’ll still be able to get help finding my hummus). Furthermore, Amazon Go still requires many employees working behind the scenes to make the system run smoothly, whether that be engineers, marketers or construction managers; jobs may be lost but jobs will be gained.
Challenges do remain however. The system struggles to accurately charge those in groups, families and couples. Engineers are working on solving this. Amazon is also hoping to implement this technology at Whole Foods Market, which it acquired for $13.7 billion in September of this year. This also presents a challenge, however, as Whole Foods stores are generally much larger than the 1,800-square-foot convenience store just opened in Seattle. With more space, more products and more people, the system may struggle to cope and accurately analyse shoppers movements.
Despite the challenges, Amazon Go is at the forefront of an exciting shift from your traditional supermarket, and could be the leader in a possible future of cashierless shopping.