Amazon reportedly has plans for dozens of new Amazon Fresh supermarkets across the country that feature automated checkout technology and will entirely transform the supermarket industry.
The Seattle-based e-commerce giant is quietly building a national grocery chain of at least 37 stores from Philadelphia to the Sacramento suburbs, with 12 stores in operation.
Some of the Amazon Fresh supermarkets already employ fleets of smart grocery carts called "Dash Carts," whose sensors and cameras add up purchases as shoppers walk the aisles. While the intelligent carts make shopping seamless, Amazon could be developing even more advanced automated checkout technology.
A Bloomberg investigation into a store being constructed in Brookfield, Connecticut, may provide clues into Amazon's next big move in the supermarket industry to altogether remove cashiers and self-checkout stations.
The secretive supermarket construction in Brookfield has yet to be publicly confirmed by Amazon, local government officials, and local engineering firms, as everyone remains hush-hush about the project. But some clues suggest the store will be fully automated with cameras and artificial intelligence tracking customers and adding up their purchases as they cruise aisles.
"Shoppers enter those locations by swiping a smartphone at the entry gate. Inside, they're tracked by cameras, software algorithms and shelf sensors—then charged for what they take when exiting through the designated gates," Bloomberg explained.
If the Brookfield supermarket under construction is a fully automated Amazon Fresh supermarket - it would be the first of its kind in terms of scale. This suggests the company has developed breakthrough camera technology for automated checkouts.
Tech executives with companies positioned in the camera-based technology field told Bloomberg that cashierless systems in full-sized supermarkets are about a year or two away.
On the Brookfield Public Records website, Amazon isn't identified by name in the planning documents. One document shows an automated checkout facility is being constructed. Bloomberg said the store also "has 320 square feet of space split between two rooms for server racks and other electrical equipment, a feature that doesn't appear in plans for some other already open Amazon Fresh stores."
Raymour & Flanigan Real Estate, which owns the strip mall, recently told the local newspaper News-Times that the "proposed grocery store client is extremely secretive, as a product of the company's foundation as a technology company." The owners said, "when this store opens, if they are able to meet the client's deadlines, there will be about 50-60 locations open nationwide."
Amazon has been working for years to streamline an automated checkout system that would boost profitability and scaled up to any size store.
However, the rollout of automated checkouts and cashierless stores will likely fire up labor unions who would say Amazon contributes to the rise in technological unemployment as they attempt to eliminate supermarket employees.