Amazon may be facing new competition from Microsoft on its cashierless, automated store technology, according to a new report from Reuters out this morning. The report claims Microsoft is in the process of developing its own systems for tracking what people place in their shopping carts, but doesn’t offer the details of how Microsoft’s technology operates, or how it may differ from others on the market.
Presumably, it would be similar to existing systems, like Amazon’s.
The Amazon Go convenience stores utilize a complex network of sensors on shelves, cameras, and A.I. to track what people pick up and place in their bag. Other startups are working on their own machine vision-powered checkout systems, as well, like Standard Cognition, AiFi, and AVA Retail, for example. The latter, along with half a dozen others, are already Microsoft partners building their own checkout-free services or related technology on Microsoft’s cloud.
Microsoft also has an internal team of 10 to 15 working on retail store technologies within its Business AI group, including a computer vision specialist hired from Amazon Go, the report noted. The team has tested things like attaching cameras to shopping carts and using smartphones to pay in various ways.
The focus of these efforts is not just to develop the new store technology itself, but also make it affordable for retailers, who tend to have small margins to work with.
Microsoft has been talking to retailers about its efforts, and has shown off sample technology during these discussions, which have included Walmart. Neither company commented on Reuters’ report.
If Microsoft were to take on Amazon in this space, it could give brick-and-mortar retailers a chance at fighting back as Amazon enters their own turf with its cashier-free stores and its grocery chain. But many of the retailers who are poised to lose to Amazon in this area can’t afford to develop this same sort of technology in-house, which they will need a partner like Microsoft.