Microsoft is currently working on technology to eliminate cashiers and checkout lines from stores.
Reuters reported that the tech giant is developing systems that track what shoppers put in their carts. Sample technology has been shown to retailers from around the world and talks about a potential collaboration with Walmart are underway.
Microsoft’s technology aims to help retailers compete with Amazon Go, Amazon’s highly automated store, opened in Seattle in January 2018. Amazon customers scan their smartphones at a turnstile to enter. Cameras and sensors identify what they remove from the shelves. When customers are finished shopping, they simply leave the store and Amazon bills their credit cards on file. New Amazon Go stores will soon open in Chicago and San Francisco.
Becoming a strategic ally to retailers means big business for Microsoft. The company ranks second, behind Amazon, in selling cloud services designed to run e-commerce shops.
Microsoft has a team of 10 to 15 people working on a variety of retail store technologies. A major challenge is to keep the technology cheap, as grocers have thin profits margins. Microsoft already showcases the basics for automated checkout at its Retail Experience Center in Redmond.
There is no clear market entry timeframe for a Microsoft automated checkout service. This technology is forecast by some as the next big innovation in shopping, one that Amazon’s competitors cannot afford to ignore.
“This is the future of checking out for convenience and grocery stores,” said Gene Munster, head of research at Loup Ventures in Minneapolis. The venture capital firm estimates the U.S. market for automated checkout is worth USD 50 billion. Cashier is one of the most commonly held jobs in the United States.
Microsoft said it “does not comment on rumours or speculation.” Walmart and Amazon declined to comment.