David is a tech journalist who loves old-school adventure games, techno and the Beastie Boys. He's currently on the finance beat. David is a tech journalist who loves old-school adventure games, techno and the Beastie Boys. He's currently on the finance beat.
Amazon is readying to sell its cashier-less technology that powers its Go stores to other retailers, Reuters reports.
The e-commerce giant launched a website on Monday for its new Just Walk Out service, which allows brick-and-mortar stores to eliminate check outs — for an undisclosed fee.
Just Walk Out subscribers will receive Amazon-installed tech including smart shelf sensors (that can be retrofitted), ceiling cameras, a branded turnstile, as well as access to round-the-clock support via email and phone.
The system differs a little from Amazon’s Go stores, where shoppers scan their smartphones with a companion app upon entry and pay for purchases automatically through their Amazon accounts. Just Walk Out turnstiles will instead accept credit cards to allow customers into stores.
Aside from that, it seems the shopping experience will be pretty much the same: customers simply pick up items from the shelf, which are tallied automatically in “virtual carts” and paid for once they leave the store — all without interacting with a cashier or scanning any barcodes.
Amazon could face some early teething problems
While all this sounds great, there are some potential obstacles that Amazon might need to address, particularly related to data privacy. Just Walk Out is an Amazon system, meaning that both Amazon and third-party stores have access to customer data.
For instance, Amazon’s vice president of physical retail and technology Dilip Kumar told reporters that Amazon will handle charging customers and providing receipts for all retailers that use its tech. This means that, at a minimum, Amazon will have credit card information and email addresses of shoppers at those stores.
Kumar however allayed concerns by telling reporters that Amazon “prohibits the use of Just Walk Out technology data for anything other than supporting Just Walk Out retailers.” A related FAQ implores shoppers to think of this as “similar to typical security camera footage,” stating that it only collects data necessary to provide accurate receipts.
There’s also reportedly problems with fitting its computer vision-powered cameras in certain stores, especially those with relatively low ceilings. Reuters notes that Amazon Web Services, on which the Just Walk Out service relies, will also see additional load should subscriptions really take off.
Just Walk Out part of Bezos’ plan for rapid expansion?
Amazon’s Go stores have certainly seen some success. After opening the first one back in 2016, it’s since opened 26 in total across the United States. Bloomberg previously reported Amazon’s supposed plan to rapidly expand to as many as 2,000 Go stores by 2021, so it seems it’s behind on those targets (if they were official).
The billion-dollar tech firm also opened its first grocery store — much larger than its Go locations — last month in Seattle.
As for Just Walk Out, Amazon says it already has several customers, but hasn’t said who they are. A spokesperson for the Seattle-based corporation also avoided revealing exactly how much the service will cost, describing the deals already made as “bespoke,” indicating it may scale pricing to individual businesses.
Hard Fork has reached out to Amazon to learn more about its pricing structure, and will update this piece should we hear back.
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