Amazon Go and the Jobless Future in Retail

 Source: Amazon

Source: Amazon

Amazon is testing a retail store without check-outs; instead, you simply tap your phone when you enter and 'machine learning and computer vision' track what you pick up and let you just walk out. In order to do this, Amazon is launching an app called Amazon Go which customers will use to register when they're in the store and the app will track the products picked up as they move about the store. The concept reflects a growing recognition by Amazon that not all shopping will gravitate online.

It's an interesting approach and very different to the clunky self-checkout systems that grocery stores have introduced which just shifts the work from employees onto the customer in exchange for a minor convenience improvement. Where grocery stores took a typical incumbent approach of attempting to automate an existing process, Amazon is attempting to completely reinvent how goods are purchased in retail stores. Just as Amazon transformed online retail with ‘one click’ purchases, there is the potential to transform brick and mortar retail with ‘just walk out’ purchases.

So, what happens to the roughly 3.4 million people employed as cashiers in the US, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics? In the short term, human workers would still be needed to restock shelves and answer customer questions. However, it's not a not a stretch to imagine a not so distant future with fully automated stores. Amazon is already moving in that direction in their warehouses. They are using 30,000 robots in their warehouses to bring products to humans to prepare for shipping. The winner of the last Amazon Picking Challenge can pick from and re-stock shelves without human intervention.

The rise of autonomous vehicles could upend the transportation and taxi industries. The most common job in each state:

 Source: NPR

Source: NPR

Advancements in machine learning, natural language processing, and artificial intelligence could displace employees across many industries. Technological advancements are coming like a freight train across multiple industries at the same time which could eliminate many, many jobs. Old jobs will be displaced and new jobs will be created, but what will be done to ensure a smooth transition from old jobs to new ones? If the technology optimists are correct about the pace of advancements with these technologies, are we prepared for this?

I cover forward-looking topics that are relevant for everyone that will be part of the future logistics industry. You can read more articles here or sign-up for a free monthly newsletter here.