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Is Video a Threat to RFID?
Amazon Go is using video, which has great potential to work with RFID—but here's why the technology cannot replace radio frequency identification.
Feb 04, 2018—
On Jan. 21, The New York Times published an article titled "Inside Amazon Go, a Store of the Future." The 1,800-square-foot convenience store is now open to the public (previously, it was open only to Amazon employees). The Times reporter wrote: "Every time customers grab an item off a shelf, Amazon says the product is automatically put into the shopping cart of their online account. If customers put the item back on the shelf, Amazon removes it from their virtual basket."
How is this possible? The article went on to explain: "The only sign of the technology that makes this possible floats above the store shelves—arrays of small cameras, hundreds of them throughout the store. Amazon won't say much about how the system works, other than that it involves sophisticated computer vision and machine learning software. Translation: Amazon's technology can see and identify every item in the store, without attaching a special chip to every can of soup and bag of trail mix."
This is certainly a big achievement by Amazon, and something that could prove to be revolutionary in retail. But I don't think the technology will ever replace RFID in retail. Rather, the two will be complementary.
There are many questions about the Amazon Go system to which we just don't know the answer. For example, how much does the video technology cost? Look at the photo in the Times' article. There is an awful lot of hardware in the ceiling. I would assume that over time, the technology will improve and fewer cameras will be needed, but what's the cost?
Additionally, we don't know how difficult it is to configure the system to each new store. Can you simply throw cameras in the ceiling and have them compare what they see to still photos uploaded to their memory banks? Or does it take time to "teach" the machine-learning system what the products are and how to handle the chaos that often occurs in stores? This is particularly an issue around the holiday season, when consumers make a mess of the shelves.
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