Microsoft exploring checkout-less technologies
Microsoft is working on autonomous-checkout technologies that could help retailers compete with Amazon’s cashierless stores.
Sources told Reuters that Microsoft is testing attaching cameras to shopping carts in order to track purchases as customers walk stores. Amazon Go’s system requires hundreds of cameras installed in the ceiling and Microsoft’s cart-camera set-up could prove to be more cost-effective.
Microsoft is also reportedly exploring options around smartphone checkout.
A computer vision specialist from Amazon Go has been hired for the project. The technology has been shown to retailers and discussions have taken place with Walmart about a potential collaboration, according to the Reuters.
The Seattle Times wrote, “Amazon could sell that technology to other retailers. But a competing technology from Microsoft could be an attractive option because retailers might see Microsoft as less of a competitive threat than Amazon.”
The first Amazon Go opened in Seattle in January, with future openings planned in Chicago and San Francisco.
Microsoft ranks second behind Amazon in cloud services that help support e-commerce sites and the clerk-less checkout is being supported by Microsoft’s cloud. In the past, the tech giant has also showcased how its Kinect motion sensor can track the location of shoppers in stores as well as what they’re looking at and picking up.
Retail and supply chain consultant Brittain Ladd told USA Today, “Microsoft especially has an opportunity to leverage their technology prowess to not copy Amazon Go but instead go after the big prize – duplicate the Amazon Go experience in much larger retail formats such as supermarkets.”
Kroger, Meijer and Sam’s Club are among the chains using scan & go technologies to avoid cashier-checkouts while JD.Com in China is using facial-recognition technology as a checkout-free solution. Walmart recently discontinued its second test of the technology as consumers chose to stick with the traditional shopping and checkout process rather than making the switch.
- Microsoft is working on a way to track what shoppers add to their carts as it takes on Amazon Go – Reuters
- Microsoft may be aiming for Amazon with its cashierless shopping technology – The Seattle Times/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
- No more grocery checkout lines: Microsoft may rival Amazon with tech that cuts out the cashier – USA Today
- Walmart drops Scan & Go tech – again – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is Microsoft investing in automated checkout technology good news for retailers and the evolvement of the technology? Does the rollout of the technology seem more imminent now or is it likely years down the road? What are some unknowns that may be holding back the technology’s effectiveness?