Unmanned retail technology is too convenient for many foreign manufacturers to follow up Amazon Go

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 Unmanned retail technology is too convenient for many foreign manufacturers to follow up Amazon Go


Picture: Amazon Go Store in Seattle

Netease Technologies News Jan. 24, according to foreign media reports, Amazon has no convenience store Go online for more than a year, there are many followers in the market, trying to keep up with the new concept of no convenience, while providing users with a better offline shopping experience.

During the first 5 years of the MightyAI, the artificial Intelligent Company has been developing software that helps autopilot identify real objects. The Seattle-based startup even opened an office in Detroit to cater to the needs of the automotive industry.

Last February, MightyAIs marketing team received an unusual customer demand: whether they could track what shoppers removed from store shelves instead of identifying pedestrians and cars. A few months later, MightyAI signed an agreement with customers to join the market competition to help physical retailers keep up with Amazon.

A year ago, the e-commerce giant opened a cashier-free convenience store called Amazon Go. So far, this is Amazons best effort to change the way people shop offline. Nowadays, many companies are trying to copy the elements of Go or invent other ways to simplify store operations.

Many of them are AI start-ups like MightyAI, but many of the older physical store giants are also involved. Wal-Mart has been testing technology for unmanned convenience stores, while supermarket chains Kroger and Microsoft recently announced a joint venture to introduce elements of e-commerce shopping experience into offline grocery stores.

Daryn Nakhuda, CEO of MightyAI, said Amazon Go showed how far you can go. Soon, he said, the most advanced technology evolved from scanning payments to Amazons go-out approach, or anything in between.

Amazon currently operates nine Go unmanned convenience stores in three cities and has not announced plans to sell the patented technology to other retailers. Moreover, even if it is willing to license the system, fierce competition between Amazon and other retailers may hinder most collaborations.

Steve Sarracino, founder of Activant Capital, an investment company, said: What we see is that the whole Silicon Valley, and even the whole venture capital, are trying to come up with some solutions to sell to retailers. Activant Capital, headquartered in Greenwich, Connecticut, holds shares in retail technology start-ups. Other technology companies will have a huge market, he said.

The National Retail Foundation Trade Fair in New York last week showed a glimpse of individual products. A blue container-sized experimental product called NanoStore was shown.

Picture: NanoStore Unmanned Convenience Concept Store developed by AiFi

The 160-square-foot store was built by AiFi, a start-up in Santa Clara, California, with limited inventory between vending machines and small convenience stores. Like Amazon Go, it is equipped with cameras and shelf sensors to track customers as they browse and select items. Shoppers can pay by application or credit card when they go out.

Steve Gu, chief executive of AiFi, said his company was following a similar technology route to Amazon, but was more inclined to automate. Although Amazon Go stores are equipped with tallying and customer assistance staff, AiFis prototype stores are fully automated in their daily operations.

AiFi said last week that French retail giant Carrefour and Polish convenience store operator Zabka had promised to test their technology.

AiFi faces fierce competition in building unmanned convenience stores. Starting in August, three different start-ups opened experimental unmanned convenience stores in the San Francisco Bay Area over a four-week period.

One of them is Standard Cognition, the company that helped transform MightyAI into a retail technology company.

Michael Suswal, co-founder of Standard Cognition, said that whatever Amazon did, this technology will emerge. However, Amazon has given space effectiveness, forcing competitors to find a way to compete. He said investors were also interested.

In 2018, venture capital firms invested $111 million in supporting American companies in their efforts to automate stores, a record since 2003. About half of them go to Standard Cognition.

The technology behind these pilot projects is largely unproven. AiFi said last year that it would launch a pilot project in an unknown retail grocery store by the end of 2018. But now that its 2019, the company has not moved. A spokesman said that the system was not yet in place and the confidentiality agreement prevented it from discussing the matter further.

Even Amazon, which is well-funded, missed the deadline to announce the opening of its first Go store in Seattle. The company spent more than a year trying to improve the technology through its employees.

Scott Jacobson, director and general manager of Seattle-based venture capital firm Madrona Venture Group, said of Goimitators: Its not clear whether these market participants will be launching their products in the near future. Its too urgent to say that now.

Other businesses have taken different approaches, aiming to provide customers with some high-tech conveniences without closing stores to install cameras and sensors.

Picture: Smart shopping carts made by startup Caper

Lindon Gao, frustrated by the long line of clothing stores on Black Friday, began trying to develop retail technology. His first attempt, in 2016, was to allow shoppers to use codes on smartphones instead of burglar-proof tags on clothes while paying for goods so that they would not have to go to the cashier. Retailers rejected the idea because it required a lot of time and money to add new equipment and tag inventory products.

He turned his attention to supermarkets, went to grocery stores in New York and asked shopkeepers and managers what they needed in the new system. The common answer is that they can use simple equipment in existing stores without spending a lot of money on holes in walls, wiring and expensive equipment.

So he reinvented the shopping cart, adding scanners and payment systems. The device made by Caper, its co-founder, looks like a shopping cart with a laptop and a credit card reader.

Consumers scan barcodes when they put things in the shopping cart. In addition, there is an electronic scale in the cart that can measure the weight of agricultural products. Now shopping carts are more intelligent, thanks to cameras, which can take pictures after each item is scanned, Golden said. The plan is that eventually it will be able to identify items placed in a shopping cart without scanning. Golden has been showing off the shopping cart at trade shows and says it has attracted interest from some grocery stores in the hope of bringing their stores into the digital age.

The launch of Amazon Go and the purchase of Whole Food made people think they had to innovate, and if they didnt innovate, they would lag behind, Golden said.

Foodcellar, a natural grocer in Queens, New York, has been using Capers smart shopping cart in stores on Long Island for a year. According to Metin Mangut, co-founder of the store, customers like the technology, and some even take self-portraits with it.

These shopping carts attracted Mangut because they did not require cameras and sensors. If a car breaks down, he can buy a new one. Shopping cart screens can guide consumers to buy what they want and alert them when they approach discounted goods, which helps encourage consumers to spend more money. Since his trial, he has been negotiating with Cape about the price of shopping carts, but he says they are worth it. It can cancel queues, liberate cashiers and help shoppers.

User experience without friction is part of future shopping, he said. It will be a mixture. Some people like this interaction. Some people dont want to deal with anyone, they just want to get what they want and leave. (Han Bing)

Source: Responsible Editor of Netease Science and Technology Report: Wang Fengzhi_NT2541