centre piece of IBM’s shop of the future are the self-service
checkouts. The technology allows large numbers of items to be
scanned at once. It does this as each shopping item has a tiny
“radio frequency identification” chip embedded in it. This
system could make the traditional barcodes obsolete as the chip
contains much more information.
customer places their items on a scanning platform, which displays
the full list on a screen. They open a smartphone app and tap the
device on a reader to deduct payment from an account linked to a
card app, such as Apple Pay or Android Pay, and are then emailed a
the London Evening Standard review here)
trial comes as Amazon opens
its first supermarket without checkouts whether human operated or
Go, as it's called, has been tested by staff for the past year
uses an array of ceiling-mounted cameras to identify each customer
and track what items they select, eliminating the need for
billing. Before entering, shoppers must scan the Amazon Go
smartphone app. Sensors on the shelves add items to the bill as
customers pick them up - and deletes any they put back. Purchases
are billed to customers' credit cards when they leave the store.
makes the dreaded supermarket queue a thing of the past and will
no doubt give any retailer a huge advantage over its competitors.
think these are great advances with technology. It means I can buy
my pint of milk or loaf of bread without having to speak to a
human - something I don't want to do when I'm in a hurry.
British Retail Consortium said it was important for shops to be
welcoming for everyone and warned that automated checkouts could
add to loneliness and isolation among the elderly.
Ambrosi, a spokesman from Anchor said, "There was a time when
people knew their shopkeepers and could pass the time of day. You
can't do that with a machine."
study by the charity suggests 24% of older people are deterred
from shopping by automated checkouts. It means they can have gone
shopping without having said 'hello' to a single person - and
that, according to Mr Ambrosi, can be quite a miserable
this week fears that robots could take the jobs of humans may be
premature after Britain’s first cyborg shop assistant was sacked
after a week of confusing customers.
an experiment run by Heriot-Watt University, the Scottish
supermarket chain Margiotta was asked to trial ‘ShopBot’, who
they affectionately named ‘Fabio’. Fabio was programmed with
directions to hundreds of items in the company’s Edinburgh store
and initially charmed customers with his ‘hello gorgeous’
greeting, playful high fives, jokes and offers of hugs.
within just a few days, the robot was demoted after giving
unhelpful advice such as ‘it’s in the alcohol section’ when
asked where to find beer. Banished to an aisle where he was only
allowed to offer samples of pulled pork, Fabio started to alarm
customers who went out of their way to avoid him.
human staff managed to tempt 12 customers to try the meat every 15
minutes, Fabio only managed two.
supermarket owner, Luisa Margiotta, soon realised the robot was
actually putting off shoppers. Ironically, when they packed up
Fabio to send it back to the lab, some staff were reduced to
tears! Dr Oliver Lemon, director of the Interaction Lab at Heriot-Watt,
admits he was surprised by the reaction his invention got. He
admitted that one of the things they didn't expect was the people
working in the shop becoming quite attached to it.
will robots replace shop workers in the future? Luisa Margiotta
was sceptical. She said: “We find our customers love a personal
interaction and speaking to our staff is a big part of that.
staff members know our regulars very well and can have
conversations on a daily a basis, and I doubt robots would be able
to fulfil this."
comment I saw on twitter suggested that staff at their local
corner shop were willing to chat, have a laugh and a joke and talk
about things with the customer and whilst prices were a bit more
than at a supermarket, the experience is far better and it makes
life a little more fun.
That may be true for some but sometimes when all you want is a
pint of milk, you don't want a conversation.
I want a conversation, I'll go down to my local.
I will admit I do fall in the "older person" bracket. I
have my bus pass. But I get so frustrated standing in a check out
queue wasting time waiting for dithering pensioners idly
gossiping, loading their shopping into their bags before fumbling
for a purse and counting out their cash. And when they have paid
they still carry on chatting to the checkout attendant.
I may be accused of being a miserable old sod but I say thank
goodness for self service technology!
what is the answer?
of us work for a living and only get an hour for lunch or a couple
of days off a week, I would suggest that supermarkets offer a 5%
discount on items bought by pensioners, or those who want a chat,
between 9:30 and 11:30 on weekday mornings.
what about checkout aisles specifically for those who want to stop
and chat? A kind of slow lane?
compromise is to have three types of checkouts. The self service
for those in a hurry and are only buying a couple of items. An
attended checkout for those with a larger shop but still limited
with time and a "slow" checkout for those who want to
"have a chat".
know which one I would use.