Amazon has a new store concept that was supposed to be up and running by now. The problem is, they ran into a wall of security holes that could bury the concept for now. Their no-cashier store called “Amazon Go” is supposed to operate completely without human supervision and contact with shoppers. However, for now, the store can only function properly if there are only a few customers at a time and if they’re moving slowly. According to the Wall Street Journal, there are technical difficulties whenever a large number of people is in the store at once, and the system has trouble keeping track of items that have been moved from their place.
Customers are supposed to make a purchase automatically upon passing the scanner, and everything would be done through their smartphone without even looking at a register. Mike McNamara of Target was skeptical of this system from the start: “…I’ve had a few people reach out to tell me that the system of cameras, sensors and RFID readers described in the application is not a new idea and has been talked about in some variation for more than a decade. One reader even pointed me to the YouTube video below which shows a 2006 commercial from IBM featuring a checkout process that sounds an awful lot like what Amazon described.”
Amazon might have bitten off more than they could chew for now. They do want to be #1 though, and if this is the only idea they can think of, it’s going to take a while to get to that top position. They initially planned to open one in their hometown – Seattle, but a delay is inevitable until they find a way to make it work. Maybe there’s a reason this two decade old idea never came to life. In fact, it was IBM that first juggled with the concept but nothing came of it:
If they do get it working somehow, the concept would not be limited to convenience stores, but other types of stores, like bookstores and even drive-through marketplaces. If they filed a patent for this, they could also license the tech to other retailers as well. In fact, that licensing alone could bring them more money than they would save by replacing cashiers with robots and scanners.