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Amazon’s cashier-less grocery store finally opens

This morning the first Amazon Go store opened to the public in downtown Seattle. It’s more convenience store than grocery store, but the big deal is that there are no cashiers and no lines.

You enter the store through a gate and with your phone and Amazon’s app. As you walk around the store and pick up items they get automatically added to your online cart on Amazon.

So everything goes right into the offline bag you’ll be leaving the store with. Place an item back on the shelf and it is instantly removed from your “cart.” Walk out of the store and you’re automatically charged.

It’s not yet clear how exactly the technology works, but Amazon says that all of this is accomplished through sophisticated computer vision (cameras), machine learning, and lots of sensors. 

What’s really remarkable is that it doesn’t rely on every product having a special chip or sensor attached to it. I would think that was one of the biggest hurdles to overcome in order to remove the pain point of grocery store lines.

Now that this is up and running, I can only imagine the customer behavior data that they must be collecting. Heat maps of every shelf showing conversion rates for every imaginable customer segment. (Are tall people more likely to buy products displayed higher up?) Correlating people’s food purchases to their broader Amazon shopping habits. And the list, I’m sure, goes on. 

There is even speculation that Amazon will begin licensing this technology to other retailers, similar to what it does with Amazon Web Services. That seems like a reasonable assumption given the data play we just talked about. Assuming the tech works, it’ll get copied. So they may as well embed themselves.

In case you were wondering, the Bureau of Labor Statistics pegs the number of cashiers in the US at about 3,555,500 (2016 number).

And this number is projected to remain more or less flat until 2026.

That doesn’t feel right to me.

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