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Pay by your face !? How Japanese businesses use AI solutions to create human less stores

Updated: Apr 6, 2022

Japan, with over 55,000 convenience shops and 8,000 supermarkets serving a population of 127 million people, is the world's second-biggest retail market. The country is the ideal spot to implement new shopping technologies, with $600 billion in supermarket revenue. In 2018, Amazon founded “Amazon Go” - casher less, people less, automated grab and go convenience stores operating in the US and UK.



What is Amazon Go?


Amazon Go is a new kind of store featuring the world's most advanced shopping technology. No lines, no checkout – just grab and go! ( https://www.amazon.com/ )




Is there Amazon Go In Japan?


The short and direct answer is, No. The more detailed answer is, No - but there are businesses that simulate similar shopping experiences. In this blog post, we will introduce some of the people less in Tokyo grocery stores and cafes.


Human-less stores utilize the technology developed by Tough To Go, the joint-venture company between JR East StartUP Co., Ltd. ( Startup incubator program from JR) and Signpost ( IT service management company ). Each store contains around 50 cameras to identify the items a customer picks up. The difference between Amazon Go with Touch To Go is that the customers still need to check out the items at the cashier. Cashiers accept IC cards, such as a Suica commuter pass and credit cards. On the cashier, there is also a button option to call for a store staff in case any assistance is needed. This technology system is planned to be implemented across more convenience stores associated with JR East like NewDays and others.





SECURE AI STORE LAB



Human less shop Secure AI store Lab
Photo from cheercareer.jp

SECURE AI STORE LAB launched a humanless pop-up testimonial store in East Shinjuku where the purchasing process is done by AI facial recognition technology. The first time shoppers need to download Security AI Store Lab mobile app to register their IDs including credit card information. Additionally, first-time users need to show their faces at the self-register to confirm their faces and connect their mobile app information with the store system. Users then can go into the store through the security gate and pick up an item they want to buy. There are three shelves. The screen for each shelf shows detailed information about the item you pick up. The screen will also show shoppers product reviews of the item they have in their hands. Finally, shoppers show their faces at the checkout monitor to pay for the products. The system will show the shoppers what it recognizes they have in their hands and ask them to confirm. If the information is correct, by pushing the checkout button, the items are paid for by shoppers’ facial recognition.



Imagr offers new shopping technology. Their model allows retailers to integrate their technology into already existing store systems without infrastructure changes and in a simple plug-in form. Retailers simply add Imagr’s system to their inventory management and carts. The cart recognizes the item added by the users and the users can pay for the product from their phones.




Today we covered shopping places that are integrating new shopping technology with no human models. Besides these convenience stores and grocery stores, technology integration is more often witnessed in restaurants and cafes.


Nesface

Nescafe - Human less experience
Photo from fashion-press.net

At Nesface, the cafe by the famous coffee brand Nescafe in Harajuku, a staff member brings a paper sheet with a QR code where customers are asked to order from their phones. When the QR code is read by the phone, it’d lead the customers to the menu with the order option.



Serving robot BellaBot



Serving Robot
Photo from toonippon

SKYLARK HOLDINGS CO., LTD. announced that by the end of 2022, they will install restaurant serving robot BellaBot in more than 2000 restaurants for the chain Shabu-Shabu Restaurants

Shabu-Yo and the family chain restaurant Gusto. The robot can carry four seats worth of meal items at once and the robot also has a cute cat face that changes its expression.




Because of its aging population, Japan has long struggled with labor shortages. Both public and private sectors are working on innovative solutions. The effect of Covid-19 also added speed in driving human interaction-less solutions. This is just the beginning for us to start understanding and seeing how more we can use technology to address the problem. Many are still done as a test phase or small scale. However, the fact that these technologies are being developed, is hopeful. These technologies will give inspiration and guidance for the further development of future technologies that can address the labor shortage.




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