Last week Amazon revealed a concept for a physical store called Amazon Go.
The new concept has a targeted strategy of eliminating courtesy clerks and instead replacing the labour cost with an app, also called Amazon Go.
Here’s how it works: the shopper downloads the app and then while in the store it automatically adds the products they plan to buy to a digital shopping cart; they can then walk out of the building without waiting in a checkout line.
Consider this the Uber for shopping . Instead of interacting with humans (like me at one time), technology automatically identifies the product and its added to your cart. When you leave the store, there is no courtesy clerk waiting to bag the groceries, Amazon automatically charges your Amazon account
Here’s the the commercial released
How did they do it?
Amazon has posted an online video and FAQ, and the company
actually tipped its hand on its approach in patent filings first unearthed by tech news site Recode last year.
Those patent filings describe a system that uses technology including RFID to detect when a shopper takes an item from the shelf, and then syncs the data to a handheld device.
That means the system is logging the items as the shopper goes along, which eliminates the need to go through a traditional check-out line. When customers exit the store through a “transition area,” the system senses that they’re leaving, adds up the items and charges their Amazon account.
From the patent filing:
For example, if the user is purchasing items from a retail location, rather than the user having to stop and “check out” with a cashier, teller or automated check station, because the picked items are already known and identified on an item identifier list associated with the user, the user may simply exit the retail location with the items. The exit of the user will be detected and, as the user passes through the exit (transition area), the user, without having to stop or otherwise be delayed, will automatically be charged a fee for the items (the items are transitioned to the user).
The patent filing notes that the system could use a shopper’s past purchase history to help identify an item when it’s picked up.
For example, if the inventory management system cannot determine if the picked item is a bottle of ketchup or a bottle of mustard, the inventory management system may consider past purchase history and/or what items the user has already picked from other inventory locations. For example, if the user historically has only picked/purchased ketchup, that information may be used to confirm that the user has likely picked ketchup from the inventory location.
Amazon says in its online FAQ and video that it’s using technologies including sensor fusion, which brings together data from different sensors to increase the reliability and accuracy of the results. Here’s how the patent filing describes the confluence of sensor data.
In some implementations, data from other input devices may be used to assist in determining the identity of items picked and/or placed in inventory locations. For example, if it is determined that an item is placed into an inventory location, in addition to image analysis, a weight of the item may be determined based on data received from a scale, pressure sensor, load cell, etc., located at the inventory location. The image analysis may be able to reduce the list of potentially matching items down to a small list. The weight of the placed item may be compared to a stored weight for each of the potentially matching items to identify the item that was actually placed in the inventory location. By combining multiple inputs, a higher confidence score can be generated increasing the probability that the identified item matches the item actually picked from the inventory location and/or placed at the inventory location.
The patent applications were filed more than two years ago, and it’s very possible that a lot has changed since then in the company’s specific approach. However, much of what the company is showing so far is very much along the same lines as described in the filings.