/Your Digital Self: As coronavirus hits hard, Amazon starts licensing cashier-free technology to retailers

Your Digital Self: As coronavirus hits hard, Amazon starts licensing cashier-free technology to retailers


An Amazon Go store. The internet retailer recently started licensing the cashier-free technology to other companies.

A little over two years ago Amazon.com opened its first Amazon Go store to the public in Seattle.

It was powered by technology used in self-driving cars: computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning. The result was a shop you could walk in, take the stuff you need and walk out. No lines, no checkouts.

Today that means there’s less chance of the coronavirus from spreading in the store — the technology helps with social distancing and staying out of potentially contaminated areas for long periods of time.

Now there are 26 Amazon Go stores, and the company has announced store locations in Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco and New York City. But Amazon

AMZN, +3.36%

 is not saving this technology for itself.

Licenses for other retailers

Starting this month (March), so-called Just Walk Out technology used in Amazon Go stores and accompanying software will be offered to other retailers, enabling them to provide the same fast and convenient self-checkout experience to their own customers — with a few key differences.

Retailers that purchase licenses for Just Walk Out don’t need their customers to download an app or create an Amazon account. In Just Walk Out-enabled stores, shoppers will enter the store using a credit card — this is different from Amazon Go stores, where downloading the Amazon Go app is the primary method of entry and payment.

Just Walk Out detects which products shoppers take from, and return to, the shelves, keeping track of them in a virtual cart. When done shopping, you can simply leave the store, and your credit card will be charged for the items in your virtual cart.

“If shoppers need a receipt, they can visit a kiosk in the store and enter their email address,” according to Amazon. “A receipt will be emailed to them for this trip. If they use the same credit card to enter this or any other Just Walk Out-enabled store in the future, a receipt will be emailed to them automatically.”

For retailers interested in this technology, Amazon will provide installation and 24/7 support.

While this system is a godsend during a pandemic, it raises a few interesting questions. One is the ownership of information collected via the Just Walk Out system. Data such as emails and credit card numbers will be collected by Amazon for purposes of sending receipts to the customer and possible participation in loyalty programs.

When asked what the data will be used for, Dilip Kumar, Amazon’s vice president of physical retail and technology, told Reuters that “Amazon saves the email address and ties that to the credit card information, solely for the purpose of charging the customer.”

Time saver

This kind of shopping experience would benefit not only people who fear the novel coronavirus, but also those who are hard-pressed for time. Just Walk Out could be used by any retailer — think Walmart

WMT, +5.12%

 or Target

TGT, +1.34%.

Imagine how quickly you could shop at a convenience store or airport.

The system, by definition, makes cashiers redundant, and while that may lead to layoffs, some retailers may opt for converting idle hands into shopping assistants — employees providing advice on products.

Taking coronavirus precautions into consideration, do you prefer shopping in regular stores or do you find the Just Walk Out concept more enticing? Let me know in the comment section below.

Jurica Dujmovic is a MarketWatch columnist.

Original Source