The Future is Here — Automated Convenience Stores
I have a theory that, in the not too distant future, retail outlets, as we know them now, will be a thing of the past. Every day more and more people are using online shopping and, of course, that means a lot less foot traffic for the stores. Sooner or later, it just won't be necessary to go to the actual store. In fact, for many products and services, we never have to leave the comfort of our homes.
As proof that retail outlets, as we know them, are going away is a recent announcement from Apple that they will be opening completely automated convenience stores with no checkout. The shopper will simply walk through the store putting things in their baskets and when they are finished shopping, they simply walk out.
How does it work? Well, Amazon says it's a combination of "Amazon says it's a combination of, quote, "computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning." In other words, it's all computerized. Every product on earth can be coded and, although the scanners in the self check line are relatively new, they are outdated already.
As you shop this new automated store, your basket reads the code of each product is put in the basket. The scanners in the basket will keep a running total and when you are finished, you simply walk out of the store. Your mobile device will keep a running total and charge you when you leave the store.
I got to thinking about how cool this is and it dawned on me that, while the method of shopping may be very modern, there are a few remnants of old fashioned retail that will be necessary. After all, those products you just bought will need to be bagged up. Who knows? Maybe we'll see the return of the bag boy. Chances are that bag boy will be made of some kind of plastic and wires.
Now, I know that this innovation does not mean that retail stores will be going away completely, but they will be very different than they are now. Imagine going to a clothing store where you are first scan to determine your exact size. From there you go to an area to look at the clothes. If you find something you like, just scan it right then. That scan will send an order to an automated warehouse where robots will pick up all the items you selected and send them to a pick up area when you are finished shopping. When you have everything you want, you go to a pick up station where everything is packaged for easy handling and you leave. All the billing and such is automatically done.
Amazon says it plans to open the first of its stores next year in Seattle.