Category: Artificial Intelligence, IoT, Smart City, Technology evolution
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Amazon Go, Get Me Some Milk!

Amazon have demonstrated how Artificial Intelligence and The Internet of Things are in the here and now. The concept of a checkout free convenience store is usually imagined to be something out of a Sci-Fi movie, but the multi-billion dollar e-commerce company have brought this to life to create a futuristic, pain-free and efficient experience.

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Amazon’s Teething Technology Problems:

There are thousands of questions surrounding Amazons checkout-free concept such as:

What if I place an item in the wrong section?

This could still be an issue as the store opens to the public currently. I imagine they will rely heavily on the customers and employees to ensure everything is placed correctly within the store. It seems, through evidential pictures, that they will only allow a certain amount of people in the store at a time, which I do feel defeats the objective, but, on the other hand people are keen to experience the next innovation in customer experience.

Amazon queue
Customers line up at lunchtime outside of the Amazon Go store on Seventh Avenue in downtown Seattle. (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)

How will amazon stop under age customers gaining access to alcohol and cigarettes?

Amazon have stated that you will have to provide ID to enter sections that contain these products. How will the ID be verified? Will this be checked by a member of staff or by a camera? It could give a prime opportunity for underage customers to get away with a fake ID if a camera is used. With expansion plans to go global, this is definitely something that could cause the stores issues.

What if people don’t scan in? And how will it deter theft?

This seemed to be a pretty quick solution for the company as barriers are set in place to allow entry to those that have an account set up. Customers can ‘scan in’ other people with the knowledge that any items picked up by that person, will be charged to the account holder. Will their be issues with connecting several people to one account with several different items being picked up by different people? It has been reported that someone has already accidentally stolen something!

And will it be able to deal with large amounts of customers during peak lunch time hours etc.?

This is an interesting challenge the store may face. Will they face large amounts of customers? Considering the checkout process is to walk out.

Amazon have stated that they have taken into consideration all proposed issues that may surface with their checkout free concept and will be able to overcome any that arise:

However, when Amazon Go was in a testing phase, it struggled to detect similar body types from one another when the shop got busy, but that’s supposedly “no longer an issue” Amazon reported.  The Hundreds of infra-red ceiling cameras have been trained (with Amazon employees as guinea pigs) over the last year to differentiate between customers as they moved around the store, and between items for sale, even those with similar appearances, such as different flavours of the same canned drink.

By making the dreaded supermarket queue a thing of the past amazon are going to have a huge advantage over its competitors. However it may be useful, I think it is always healthy to question whether it’s a pro or not for our society. As much as efficiency is helpful, is it worth taking away fundamental jobs of working in a supermarket? There will forever be a debate on people vs machines when it comes to employment. Personally, I understand the need for both people and machines, but when will it become imbalanced?