After dominating the online shopping space, is Amazon planning on doing the same in brick-and-mortar retail stores? A recently discovered patent application seems to point in that direction.
The US Patent and Trademark Office has confirmed that Amazon has filed for “a system for automatically transitioning items from a materials handling facility without delaying a user as they exit the materials handling facility.”
The e-tail giant’s patent includes the use of in-store technology, including cameras, sensors and RFID tags that would identify shoppers and their chosen products when leaving its stores. This idea would allow customers to delay payment for items picked up in the shop, while also avoiding lengthy waits in kiosk queues, according to a patent Amazon has filed:
“When the customer passes through the exit (transition area) of the retail location, the items picked by the user may be automatically transitioned from the materials handling facility to the user and the user may be charged a fee for the items.
For example, if the user is purchasing items from a retail location, rather than the user having to stop and ‘check out’ with a cashier, teller or automated check station, because the picked items are already known and identified on an item identifier list associated with the user, the user may simply exit the retail location with the items.
The exit of the user will be detected and, as the user passes through the exit (transition area), the user, without having to stop or otherwise be delayed, will automatically be charged a fee for the items (the items are transitioned to the user).”
Customers may pick one or more items which are then “identified and automatically associated with the user at or near the time of the item pick. When the user enters and/or passes through a transition area, the picked items are automatically transitioned to the user without affirmative input from or delay to the user.”
The application also talks about how the system could establish an optional rental price or “borrow time” with the shopper when they exit a rental store or library with an item.
The technology would potentially give Amazon a more cost-effective way to compete with traditional retailers by operating a store that doesn’t require cashiers and could similarly serve as a place to pick up online orders.
Amazon’s new plans for the brick-and-mortar sector have been a popular topic of speculation in the retail and e-commerce worlds, and have raised certain questions:
Are Amazon endeavouring to enter and dominate the retail business?
While there is no evidence of Amazon working to deliver on creating the new concept technology which is mentioned in the patent for their visionary brick-and-mortar stores, the protection of the developed idea shows that it’s at least considering the move.
The current patent application is a continuation of a previously filled application on the same topic, but this time it comes with much more in-depth detail on how the system would work, further proving the companies interest and continuing development of a revolutionary brick-and-mortar store to rival all others.
In October,Kindle and Fire phone developer was reportedly going to open its first retail store on 34th Street in Manhattan by the end of 2014. While the store never opened, Amazon leased the building and is currently using it as a mini warehouse from which couriers can whisk same-day orders to Amazon Prime members.
Focus: Faster delivery, now!
While speculation continues as to whether its store will ever open, the stores themselves can further help distribution times, as a large part of the patent application describes how the system will make Amazon’s warehouses much more efficient.
Amazon has also introduced vending machines in airports that sell Amazon devices, and installed lockers in small retail stores where buyers can collect their online orders.
In Amazon’s most time-efficient concept to improve delivery times, the retailer is testing product delivery by unmanned drones.
Should we be worried about our privacy?
Within the patent application, much of the concept relies on shoppers being identified by the technology through a tracking system throughout the store; this raises some concerns as to privacy.
The application describes the use of cameras to take a photo of the shopper upon entry as well as when they remove a product from the shelves and again when they and their products leave the store.
With the reference of “facial recognition” within the patent, Amazon would surely have to compile information and make user profiles of its shoppers by using such cameras to describe their height, weight, Amazon usernames and passwords as well as their previous shopping account details, history and payment information.
A description from the patent application of a “user,” which could be a warehouse worker or a shopper, provides some hints as to how the system would work:
“User information may include, but is not limited to, user-identifying information (e.g. images of the user, height of the user, weight of the user), a user name and password, user biometrics, purchase history, payment instrument information (e.g., credit card, debit card, check card), purchase limits, and the like.”
Whether a revolutionary concept or a project in process, Amazon continues to overshadow all consumer areas.