New generation supermarket: no cash registers, queues and tough security17 January 2017
At one point of time, shops lost their sellers giving buyers the opportunity to take goods themselves, study and scale them. The first supermarket of that kind was opened in 1916 having a snazzy name "Piggly-Wiggly". In 1995, the world learnt that shopping does not necessarily requires leaving home: you can just order everything home via the Internet. Now, 2017 promises the next major transformation in the field of shopping and commerce. And at this time with a help of The Internet of Things.
New level of self-service
The introduction of the IoT technology to supermarkets and shopping centers has already begun. Let us recall a mobile application for reading the barcode of products available in the developed countries for more than a year. Or, RFID systems for tracking in real time the location of any kind of goods on the trading floor. Do not forget about the interactive outdoor advertising. A striking example of it is a last year's Lexus billboards that provided the technology, which is capable of indicating car brands and showing related ads based on the received data.
All these technologies are impressive in their own way. But at the same time it is only a fraction of what can be done with the help of the Internet of Things. Amazon was one of the first to prove it. At the end of 2016, they opened an innovative supermarket Amazon Go, which has no cash registers, staff or guards. It has a Just Walk Out technology, which allows the buyer to conduct automatic payment at the exit of the store without cashier assistance.
The work of the system seems quite simple. The client downloads the application and comes to the store being pre-authorized. For this, one has to scan on a related turnstile the QR-code generated by the smartphone app. Then you can start shopping and taking off the shelves everything you wish. Selected items will be displayed on your smartphone screen. When you finish your purchase, you are free to go, as your credit card will be charged automatically. You will not have to stand in line or pass face control of some distrustful guard. That looks more like a dream than shopping.
For now, Amazon Go is running in test mode and for their employees only. But, the creators promise to open its first store for public at the beginning of this year. If that happens, our common way to do shopping will change just like it did after the appearance of "Piggly-Wiggly» in 1916.
One’s own master – Swedish way
While Amazon is still testing their creation and promising changes, Swedish programmer Robert Ilijason has already brought to life some of these promises last year. In his hometown Viken, he opened a completely unstaffed shop without cashiers and security.
This supermarket sells only the most necessary goods such as food and personal care items for children and adults. Trading hall doors are always locked. To unlock it, one has to use a mobile application, which Robert developed himself. Once inside, the buyer can take any product from the shelves, scan its barcode and leave. The purchase bill will come at the end of the month.
At first glance, it may seem that the whole system is not that much reliable. But it does work. Viken is a small town and that is why an all-nighter store with no queues matches the place the best. But, the demand for this kind of service will go beyond town borders. Imagine if such shop suddenly appears nearby. If you live far from the center, you will no longer have to go to neighbor quarter or even more distant places in order to buy bread. The only option, which can be considered more convenient in this case, is probably ordering food home.
By the way, the chance that an unstaffed store will appear near your place is not excluded. Anyway, Robert Ilijason seriously intends to create a network of supermarkets and improve the principle of robots operation.
Supermarket with augmented reality
Another novelty in the world of retail. In Milan, recently the store was opened proving that the "supermarket of the future" are not just words. First of all, the products are sorted by ingredients. For example, grapes are placed next to the bottles of wine and preserved vegetables are put next to their fresh "buddies".
But the main thing here is reflective screens. Bring a product closer to one of them and all the necessary information will appear in front of you: price, ingredients, nutritional value, allergens presence and even tracking the product’s way from the producer to the counter. This way, the store creators are hoping to help visitors make the healthiest diet for themselves. At the same time, they do not consider dismissing the staff – cash registers are operating in a common way.
Smart shopping cart
Japanese developers suggest a peculiar view on the shopping process. As an example, Panasonic has created a smart cart. It is able to count the number of products selected by the buyer and calculate the total purchase cost. Besides, the cart will pack all the purchased goods itself. Buyer will only have to pay.
Developers are not going to give up on the staff as the store in Japan is considered a place not only for shopping but for communication as well. Therefore, Panasonic is certain that the "supermarket of the future", which is being developed by Amazon, is not an option for their country.
Right or wrong, only time will tell. In the meantime, we can admit one thing: "supermarkets of the future" is not just an abstract concept, but a real fact. Modern IoT technologies have changed our usual sales areas and we are longing for more global and interesting changes in this regard.
12 July 2017