Walk in to a store without your wallet, pick up items and leave the store without paying anything. Ever thought that would be legal? In a conventional retail store today that would be considered a crime and you would be convicted of shoplifting. However, a recently published patent application by Amazon has the ecommerce giant indicating this could be a legal way to shop.
Amazon Technologies, Inc. filed an application (US 20150012396) that describes a system where a materials handling facility automatically records the transitioning of goods as and when a customer exits the facility.
As a customer enters a transition area in the facility, a couple of triggers will execute the purchase of items picked: 1) a trigger to the facility that reports that the picked item is no longer available in the inventory; and 2) a trigger to the customer’s profile data store that updates the profile information with the picked item.
Amazon plans to use sensors for measuring pressure, volume displacement, weight and infrared sensors to identify picked items. It is interesting to see the way Amazon uses a customer’s images taken at various points in the store and past purchases to identify the item(s) picked. Once, the customer moves into the transition area, a central processor raises the triggers to record a purchase. An electronic message informing about the purchase is then sent to the customer.
Interestingly, this is not the first attempt towards making retail shopping experience cashier and wallet-free. A patent application (US 20140164176) filed by Rawllin International, Inc. aims to make smart shopping carts. The cart is equipped with RFID scanners that can read the items placed in the cart and communicate the same to a central processer. A customer is required to login to the cart that links the cart to the customer’s profile and preferred payment instructions. The cart executes a purchase as per the preferred payment instructions.
Another application (US 20130103519) puts into action a personal digital cashier with a coupon locator. It aims to simplify choosing the best store in your proximity that offers best discounts and also allows for a cashier-free experience.
Clearly, with these innovations we can imagine a cashier and wallet-free retail store shopping experience turning into reality soon. However, it will be interesting to see if retail stores can take it further and make the stores employee-free.
(Featured image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/felixtsao/6709439335)