Tech companies are catching up to Amazon Go
- Israel-based Trigo Vision has received $7 million in funding to develop technology similar to what Amazon uses for its Amazon Go concept, according to Fast Company. The company uses computer vision to recognize each product as a shopper grabs it, and that shopper is then charged for the product accordingly without having to go through a checkout process.
- Trigo Vision claims it can scale up to full-size grocery store dimensions. Additionally, the platform handles services other than automated checkout, including inventory tracking, spotting shoplifters, gauging product placement efficiency and providing customers with directions to a specific product. “We have the ability to track everything in the store,” CEO Michael Gabay told fast Company. “We know where are the products, the people, the baskets, the carts, everything.”
- The company predicts it will be able to launch an actual service in "a year, more or less," according to COO Jenya Beilin.
Since Amazon debuted its checkout-free Go store earlier this year, the race has been on to duplicate the technology that enables the frictionless experience. This is a daunting challenge — few companies match the tech savvy and deep pockets of Amazon — but with the technology’s potential for disruption and Amazon’s history of success, competitors and startups alike know they at least have to try.
And so as Amazon readies to open a new Go store in Seattle this fall, as well as additional stores in Chicago and San Francisco, Microsoft is reportedly developing a similar system for Walmart and Albertsons that tests a “grab and go” technology. These, like Trigo Vision’s platform, may already have an advantage over Go’s technology in that they’re developed for a much bigger space than Go’s c-store-sized footprint, and are therefore better positioned to scale in the grocery space. Amazon Go’s flagship store in Seattle is about 3,000 square feet, while the average supermarket is about 42,800 square feet.
At the Shoptalk conference earlier this year, project leads Gianna Puerini and Dilip Kumar said Amazon is not planning to bring its checkout-free experience to Whole Foods stores. But if Trigo Vision’s technology makes its way into some of the “bigger retailers” Gabay alluded to working with, Amazon may have to reconsider or risk giving up a head start on an innovation it facilitated in the first place. Also, if Trigo Vision’s technology does create a footprint in the retail space, don’t expect Amazon to remain complacent with its technology. The company will likely scramble to add similar features in response — an inventory tracker, for example — as well as other features in an effort to retain its lead.
Right now, costs of this type of technology are tough to justify for the slim-margined grocery category. But as movement ramps up in the checkout-free technology space, having more startups and heavyweights such as Microsoft attempting to duplicate the Go technology should eventually bring the costs down, which should accelerate the rollout.
Although a recent survey from tech firm Interactions revealed that 60% of shoppers want someone to greet them, another survey by Shorr Packaging indicated that 75% of consumers said they would shop at an Amazon Go store if one were nearby. This indicates that we could be on the cusp of the next iteration of grocery shopping, one where convenience trumps service. Like the ecommerce iteration that came before it, this one is once again led by Amazon.
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