Source: China Brands
Technology has served many different functions in our society. Among the most important recently are the algorithms which correct themselves while directing people around the world. Yes, I am talking about the residents of the world who use 'GoogleMaps'. Over time, the algorithm seeks to improve the accuracy by self assessment. What? Yes, the algorithm updates and assesses itself after every use. Amazing. Back in January in Seattle, Amazon opened up a store without cashier type check out stands. Yes, without check out stands. I have been sitting on this short post for quite a while for no good reason. Although, with the greater use of digital tracking of our preferences, the subject is worth highlighting.
Do I Really Love That Food?
Back in January, an article in 'The New York Times' titled "Inside Amazon Go, a Store of the Future"
But the technology that is also inside, mostly tucked away out of sight, enables a shopping experience like no other. There are no cashiers or registers anywhere. Shoppers leave the store through those same gates, without pausing to pull out a credit card. Their Amazon account automatically gets charged for what they take out the door.
There are no shopping carts or baskets inside Amazon Go. Since the checkout process is automated, what would be the point of them anyway? Instead, customers put items directly into the shopping bag they’ll walk out with.
Every time customers grab an item off a shelf, Amazon says the product is automatically put into the shopping cart of their online account. If customers put the item back on the shelf, Amazon removes it from their virtual basket.
The only sign of the technology that makes this possible floats above the store shelves — arrays of small cameras, hundreds of them throughout the store. Amazon won’t say much about how the system works, other than to say it involves sophisticated computer vision and machine learning software. Translation: Amazon’s technology can see and identify every item in the store, without attaching a special chip to every can of soup and bag of trail mix.
Before the above excerpt can be explored more, the differences between a traditional grocery store and the new store offered by Amazon should be briefly highlighted. Grocery stores with the option of 'cashier assisted' checkout are nothing new. Stores ranging from Ralphs to Home Depot (or Lowes) have all incorporated the 'checker' less option. What is new is the option without a 'check out stand' altogether. To test your ability of paying attention to the potential impact of opening a store such as that which has been open for over a few months now, there are a few questions which a school teacher came up with in "teacher has come up with questions" from 'The New York Times' shown below:
1. What type of convenience store opened in Seattle on Jan. 22?2. What details make the Amazon Go store different from a traditional grocery store?3. What is noticeable about the photos in the article? What do they show about the new store?4. How are items paid for in the Amazon Go store, and what is eliminated in the process?5. What does Amazon say about the role of cashiers and potential loss of jobs with the new system?
6. Why does the author say the experience feels like shoplifting, and what happened when he attempted to shoplift a four-pack of vanilla soda?
The above questions represent a good exercise in critical thinking for the article under scrutiny about the new grocery stores. You may be wondering why I am bringing this up now when the stores have been open for the last few months. The reason is that there is a larger change at hand with this new technology. Amazon is looking to expand the information extracted about each customer by introducing new technology. The grocery store is just one.
Inside the grocery store are a large amount of cameras which are tracking movements. Not to scare you in any way, this is for the main purpose of tracking purchases. Although, the amount of time that each customer stands in front of a given product is being recorded along with the customers who simply walk by and pay no attention toward a given item. This technology is being extended into algorithms which are embedded into the 'Kindle' by Amazon.
I accidentally misplaced the reference (the name of the podcast/episode) which described the shift in Amazon's strategy to gather more information out of their readers Kindle usage. Including tracking how long each reader stays on a page and if the reader returns to a section with a given phrase or story. This information will inevitably help Amazon sell better books by adjusting the plot to tailor the customers exact needs. Scary? Possibly.
The changes proposed or being sought by Amazon are interesting and potentially frightening. As the Virtual Reality pioneer -- computer scientist -- Jaron Lanier implied in his book titled "Who Owns The Future?" -- nothing is for free in Silicon Valley. Meaning, any discount or free technology is accompanied by a lengthy 'legal disclaimer' which is basically saying that the information collected on this device belongs to Amazon or any other technology company.
At the same time, Jaron Lanier states that in order to get around such an inevitable problem, a new system will have to arise -- something akin to 'micro-payments'. If the user is unwilling to pay the 'micro-payment' then a short commercial might need to be watched by the user to access the 'free service'. Ultimately, the technology offered by Amazon might not be terrible given that the time needed to search for an interesting book for a person will be reduced as A.I. algorithms become more intelligent.
In the end, the technology depends on a choice by the consumer (you and I). Are we willing to give up our information for a "free service"? Do we really understand what data is being collected by theses technology companies? Do we really care what data is being collected? These questions will have to be answered in the future as technology rapidly advances in data collection over time.
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