Will you ever have to stand in checkout lines again?

Author: Mayuri Hebbar, Graphics: Walton Bullard

The BRB Bottomline

Amazon’s technology for automatic checkouts is paving the way for advancements in other industries, changing the nature of labor demand.

Amazon acquired Whole Foods in 2017; since then, the technology giant has been making a significant impact on Whole Foods. The most recent development was the fully automatic checkout process that shoppers can now experience. This futuristic model of shopping came on slowly because, for the longest time, Amazon was only making small advancements towards “amazonifying” Whole Foods’ existing grocery store model.

How does Amazon’s automation technology work?

With the implementation of cameras and sensors, customers at these fully automated checkout Whole Foods stores can walk in, grab the groceries they need, and purchase them without having to go through the laborious and time-consuming process of checking out. The grocery store takes care of the backend process of going through items purchased by customers, and the customer later sees the amount they need to pay in their bank account balances. 

Potential Drawbacks

This technology is certainly revolutionary, as it paves the way to completely change the way we approach grocery shopping in general; however, some users are skeptical about the effectiveness of the technology and are scared to touch anything unless they plan on picking it up and putting it in their bag. While concerns like this one are valid, increased use and perfection of this technology will eventually ensure that “false purchases” will not be as much of a concern.

The Effect on the Job Market

This increase in automation leads to the contentious question that portrays the concern of many modern-day workers: will we lose jobs and face an employment shortage? In fact, the dynamic balance between advancements of technology and labor economics has revolved around society for ages. According to the lump of labor fallacy, the short answer to this question is “no”. The lump of labor fallacy makes the assumption that the amount of available employment remains static over a period of time, but that is not the case. Society tends to assume that labor is fixed; if that were the case, then only a very small percentage of the population would have jobs in today’s world. Demand is dynamic, and there will always be work that needs to be done. With advancements in technology, the nature of the work will change accordingly. 

The Effect on Businesses and Other Industries?

There are also questions regarding the effects this automation will have on businesses. Since this process can be implemented by any brick and mortar store, it can have positive financial effects on businesses, as they can save a significant amount of money in the long run by avoiding having to pay for additional staff.

The fully autonomous checkout technology developed by Amazon opens the doors to other applications across different industries. This autonomous checkout framework could be utilized for other types of activities, such as keeping track of attendance for events using a combination of Amazon’s framework and facial recognition software. This type of automation could also help reduce wait times in the healthcare industry, and could also be used as a mechanism to track user preferences as it can keep track of what customers look at before coming to an ultimate decision to purchase an item. With these implementations across other industries, automation can lead to a significant increase in efficiency. Now, the labor needed to facilitate manual processes like checking out can be redirected to more productive means, such as developing newer technology to streamline and improve quality of life for customers. 

Take-Home Points

Moving forward, customers can expect to see a gradual change in their overall shopping experience as this form of automation technology becomes more widely available. As a result, the increase in automation will create a shift in demand in the labor market since the labor demand will shift away from jobs involving manual labor and repetitive tasks to roles that facilitate the implementation of autonomous technology. With that in mind, the days of standing in long checkout lines are – hopefully – coming to an end.

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