According to a report in Reuters which cited six people familiar with the matter, Microsoft’s Business AI team is working on cashierless technology that would track the items placed in a shopping cart, removing the need to go on a line and interact with a cashier. Microsoft has been showing off the technology to retailers around the world, and Reuters reported it has also held talks with Walmart about a potential collaboration. Microsoft’s Business AI group has explored placing cameras in shopping carts to track customers’ items and has explored how mobile devices can play a role. Some of the technology has already been presented to Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella, noted the report.
The move on the part of Microsoft comes as Amazon is gearing up to expand its Amazon Go stores into Chicago and San Francisco. That has prompted retailers to start preparing for what they think will be another disruption by Amazon. Amazon Go launched in Seattle in January and is cashierless. The store, which was in development for five years, is located on the ground floor of Amazon’s new headquarters in Seattle and is stocked with technologies that remove the need for cashiers. Customers first need to download the Amazon Go app, scan it upon entry and then just pick up what they want to buy. They don’t have to stop at a checkout counter or open their wallet to pay. Amazon Go employs sensors, cameras and a computer vision system to scan the items being purchased and then automatically charges them to the shopper’s Amazon account. There is no date as to when Microsoft will roll out the technology and if it will move ahead, but cashierless checkout is where the industry is seen as heading. Gene Munster, founder of Loup Ventures, told Reuters that the future of checkout is cashierless and that in the U.S. the market opportunity could be $50 billion.