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OPLIN 4Cast #603: The future of retail doesn’t include cashiers

Posted in 4cast

In 2006, a commercial from IBM made waves (and actually is stuck in my memory over a decade later) because it depicted a man seemingly shoplifting numerous items from a grocery store, only for the viewer to discover that he wasn’t shoplifting at all. As he leaves the store without appearing to pay, an employee stops him: not to accuse him of stealing, but rather to hand him his receipt.  IBM then proudly proclaims that stores without cashiers are the “future of e-business.”

Fast-forward twelve years, and that technology is not only here, but beginning to expand.  Sadly for IBM, it’s not at the forefront of cashierless checkout. Amazon was the first to open a store without checkout lines, but it certainly isn’t going to be the last, or even necessarily the biggest. As this technology expands to the retail giants, how long until it’s in use at small businesses…or in libraries?

  • Microsoft tech may help Walmart get rid of cashiers and checkout lines [Ars Technica] “Microsoft’s store tech is designed to help retailers ‘keep pace’ with Amazon as the online shopping giant dabbles more in brick-and-mortar endeavors. Specifically, retailers who may use Microsoft’s technology could better compete with Amazon Go, the company’s cashierless convenience store. “
  • Between Walmart and Kroger, 500 stores are about to ditch cashiers [CNBC] “Kroger’s recently introduced platform, known as ‘Scan, Bag, Go,’ will roll out to 400 of the grocery chain’s stores later this year. That will put the company ahead of Walmart, which anticipates having its “Scan & Go” service at fewer than 200 stores by the end of 2018.”
  • End of the checkout line: the looming crisis for American cashiers [The Guardian] “Another report, by McKinsey, suggests that a new generation of high tech grocery stores that automatically charge customers for the goods they take – no check-out required – and use robots for inventory and stocking could reduce the number of labor hours needed by nearly two-thirds. It all translates into millions of Americans’ jobs under threat.”
  • I Tried Shoplifting in a Store without Cashiers and Here’s What Happened [MIT Technology Review] “The company trains its deep neural networks to recognize items in the store, too, in a process that takes about two minutes per item and consists of an employee grabbing the item and doing things like turning it over, putting it behind their back, and placing it in a basket in view of the cameras.”

From the Ohio Web Library: