Amazon is now selling the cashierless technology used in its Go stores to other retailers, Reuters reports. The business line is called “Just Walk Out,” and Amazon says it has already signed up several customers for the service.
The Just Walk Out technology is being used at a number of Amazon Go convenience stores across the country and the just-launched, larger Go Grocery store in Seattle. Using a combination of computer vision, shelf sensors and deep learning, Just Walk Out allows shoppers to do just that — grab an item and walk out, getting charged automatically upon exit.
There is one big difference in the way this technology is being offered to other retailers. Unlike Go stores, where you scan the Amazon Go app on your phone in order to enter a store, Just Walk Out for third party retailers will require shoppers to insert their credit card into a (Amazon branded) turnstile as they enter. The technology still monitors your shopping the same way, it would at an Amazon Go store, but if you need a receipt, there will be a kiosk for you to associate an email with that credit card.
As Reuters points out, this type of setup does bring up the question of who owns the customer data. If customers are handing over their email address, what type of relationship is it entering into with Amazon? Dilip Kumar, Amazon’s vice president of physical retail and technology told Reuters that Amazon saves the email and credit card information only for the purpose of charging the customer.
But that still leaves a ton of data around when customers shop, how often, what times, what they pick up in stores and what they put back, etc.. That’s a treasure trove of information that Amazon could use to feed its own algorithms and apply to its own real world retail game.
The actual news today isn’t actually that big of a surprise for industry watchers. CNBC reported last year that Amazon was looking to sell its cashierless tech to third parties to places like movie theaters.
But the big question is who will adopt this. It’s unlikely that grocery retailers like Albertsons or Kroger would be interested. They are already locked in a heated battle with Amazon as the e-commerce giant rolls out physical stores like the aforementioned Go Grocery, and its forthcoming chain of full-on supermarkets in Los Angeles. So there’s no real incentive to hand Amazon more money.
Plus, there are a lot of options for retailers looking to add cashierless checkout to their retail experiences. Trigo, Grabango, AiFi, Caper, and Zippin all offer cashierless solutions that either retrofit existing stores, or extend their brand with smaller, self-contained, standalone cashierless retail experiences.
Having said that, in many ways, Amazon could be for cashierless tech was IBM was for computing technology in the past. The saying used to go “no one gets fired for buying IBM,” and with Amazon’s size and track record, the Bezos behemoth could be the safe choice for smaller retailers to up their high-tech offerings.