Wal-Mart, Amazon, Flipkart, etc are revolutionizing on-line retail market. Wal-Mart dominates but Amazon is chasing up. Amazon has been in news for using Artificial Intelligence based technology since last few years. Amazon Rekognition, DSSTNE (pronounced “destiny”), Amazon-Drone are some of the landmark tools/technology from Amazon. Recently, it has announce Deep Learning based Just Walk Out Technology for their retail store – Amazon Go. This article focuses on two things: (1) What is Amazon Go? (2) Why Deep Learning based Just Walk Out Technology will be future of retail stores?
1. Amazon Go – The Just Walk Out Technology
Amazon Go is the world’s most advanced shopping technology, ever in the history of retail market. Customers must have an Amazon account, the free Amazon Go app, and a compatible smartphone to shop at the store. The very first prototype store is in Seattle, Amazon’s headquarters, in 1,800-square-foot space. Right now, the store is only for Amazon employees. The store may be launched for public early in 2017.
It is a new kind of cashless checkout grocery store. Payment is automatically done through their mobile devices as they leave store. It’s too simple and straightforward -no lines; no swiping of credit card; no crabby cashiers; no bagging. Customers can easily understand how to buy items and do payments. Straight a away walk out without waiting in a checkout line. It has removed the whole payment hassle just like Uber. Amazon said, it’s similar to the gear used in self-driving cars.
Just Walk Out Technology uses deep learning, computer vision and sensor fusion. It uses sensors throughout the store and Artificial Intelligence (Deep Learning) to tell which direction customers are looking, even in a crowd, and can identify partially blocked labels. It automatically detects when products are taken from or returned to the shelves and keeps track of them in a virtual cart.
2. Why the technology will be future of retail stores?
Answer to this question lies in answer to questions like: Is it possible to have it successfully with 100% accuracy? Second, why and to what extend people/retailers will accept the technology? What if retailer are not implementing the technology in future? Because, there are many issues and many questions in the minds of people, and event retail store owners, even though it looks quite impressive.
2.1 Issues and Challenges
How is it possible to link products to a person with 100% accuracy?
Are there any chances of mistake in payments like customer is charged even if he/she didn’t buy an items.
What about shopping of perishable foods, like vegetables, which are priced by weight?
How to have one consolidated virtual cart for families and groups so that they are charged from one Amazon account instead of individual account.
How is it possible to uniquely detect and identify individual customer if there is huge rush in the store?
How will it prevent stealing of items from store, as it’s just take and walk out?
What is the cost of implementing the technology?
What about the impact on employment?
Is it be feasible to have it in small retail shop?
All these and many other similar questions, raise one question “Will Amazon Go like Just out Technology becomes future of retail stores?” Next section answers the why and to extent it will be possible to implement the technology.
2.2 Success Story and Facts
Research in Artificial Intelligence and Computer Vision date back to 1956 and 1960, respectively. Since then there were many ups and down. But, today Computer Vision and Artificial Intelligence (more specifically Deep Learning) are booming and there are numerous success stories and amazing facts.
- Big companies like IBM, Accenture, IntelliVision, etc are already providing Computer Vision and Artificial Intelligence base smart retail and smart security solutions to retail companies .
- There are 100+ companies and start-ups who have successfully developed products and applications that are using Computer Vision and Deep learning algorithms . Clarifai is one of those successful startup, who is providing Image and Video Recognition solutions.
- Big Giants Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Intel, IBM, Twitter, etc are investing billions on Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning . They have achieved significant success in the form of RankBrain, DeepText, Siri, Cortana, etc applications.
- Amazon is working on Just Walk Out Technology since last four years. As per the report of infoworld.com , Amazon Web Services has selected MXNet as its favored deep-learning framework.
- Amazon has already achieved significant success in developing Deep Learning based Rekognition framework and the most amazing Amazon Go – Just Walk Out Technology. Amazon itself is planning to open the store for public early in 2017.
Few things which might be dreams once upon a time:
- Do anyone has thought of cashier-less money withdrawal from Banks? But today we are able to withdraw money from ATM without cashier.
- Do anyone have ever thought of flying in sky through airplane 100 years ago?
- Does anyone have ever thought, 100 years ago, of sending a message or talking with our beloved, who are millions of miles far away in a fraction of second? But today its reality.
Many companies have achieved great success in the form of AI and Computer Vision based real-time working applications, products, solutions, and services. These all tells one thing, it is definitely possible to implement such technology with 100% accuracy similar to e-banking.
Some of the implementation issues and challenges in retail are already sorted out and others will definitely be sorted out in near future. Now a days, Computer Vision, Deep Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Sensor Technology and other supporting technology are in its matured state.These are all signs of successful implementation in future.
On the other side, who will not likes such amazingly simpler, cashless, hassle free shopping. Hence, there is no issue on acceptance of technology from customer side. Secondly, day by day smart devices, equipments, computing, storage, and electronics items are becoming cheaper and cheaper. For big retailer, money is not an issue. They will also get return from reduction in employee and better customer satisfaction. Hence there will be many retailers, who will be implementing Just Walk Out Technology.
Currently there is a cut-throat competition in retail. Big retailers will gradually implement the technology to attract more customers. Customers will definitely prefer to shop from those who have “Just Walk Out Technology”. There are chances that retailer may lose business if they do not adopt such wonderful technology. Therefore, Amazon Go like technology is future of retail stores.
All these success stories, facts and realities, welcomes the grand success of the Amazon Go like Just Walk Out Technology and will be available in most of the Big retail stores in years to come. It may be difficult and infeasible for small retail shop? It will take time to implement the technology in small cities and rural areas, But, metro cities and big retail shops will be implementing the technology in near future.