Amazon’s automated grocery store of the future opens Monday

In this Thursday, April 27, 2017, file photo, people walk past an Amazon Go store in Seattle. Amazon Go shops are convenience stores that don't use cashiers or checkout lines, but use a tracking system that of sensors, algorithms, and cameras to determine what a customer has bought. (AP)
Updated 21 January 2018
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Amazon’s automated grocery store of the future opens Monday

SEATTLE: Amazon.com Inc. will open its checkout-free grocery store to the public on Monday after more than a year of testing, the company said, moving forward on an experiment that could dramatically alter brick-and-mortar retail.
The Seattle store, known as Amazon Go, relies on cameras and sensors to track what shoppers remove from the shelves, and what they put back. Cash registers and checkout lines become superfluous — customers are billed after leaving the store using credit cards on file.
For grocers, the store’s opening heralds another potential disruption at the hands of the world’s largest online retailer, which bought high-end supermarket chain Whole Foods Market last year for $13.7 billion. Long lines can deter shoppers, so a company that figures out how to eradicate wait times will have an advantage.
Amazon did not discuss if or when it will add more Go locations, and reiterated it has no plans to add the technology to the larger and more complex Whole Foods stores.
The convenience-style store opened to Amazon employees on Dec. 5, 2016 in a test phase. At the time, Amazon said it expected members of the public could begin using the store in early 2017.
But there have been challenges, according to a person familiar with the matter. These included correctly identifying shoppers with similar body types, the person said. When children were brought into the store during the trial, they caused havoc by moving items to incorrect places, the person added.
Gianna Puerini, vice president of Amazon Go, said in an interview that the store worked very well throughout the test phase, thanks to four years of prior legwork.
“This technology didn’t exist,” Puerini said, walking through the Seattle store. “It was really advancing the state of the art of computer vision and machine learning.”
“If you look at these products, you can see they’re super similar,” she said of two near-identical Starbucks drinks next to each other on a shelf. One had light cream and the other had regular, and Amazon’s technology learned to tell them apart.
HOW IT WORKS
The 1800-square-foot (167-square-meter) store is located in an Amazon office building. To start shopping, customers must scan an Amazon Go smartphone app and pass through a gated turnstile.
Ready-to-eat lunch items greet shoppers when they enter. Deeper into the store, shoppers can find a small selection of grocery items, including meats and meal kits. An Amazon employee checks IDs in the store’s wine and beer section.
Sleek black cameras monitoring from above and weight sensors in the shelves help Amazon determine exactly what people take.
If someone passes back through the gates with an item, his or her associated account is charged. If a shopper puts an item back on the shelf, Amazon removes it from his or her virtual cart.
Much of the store will feel familiar to shoppers, aside from the check-out process. Amazon, famous for dynamic pricing online, has printed price tags just as traditional brick-and-mortar stores do.


Egypt’s president approves law for ride-hailing apps

Updated 24 June 2018
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Egypt’s president approves law for ride-hailing apps

  • El-Sisi approved a law governing popular ride-hailing apps Uber and Careem
  • The law establishes the basis for operating licenses and fees

CAIRO: Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi approved a law governing popular ride-hailing apps Uber and Careem after the companies appealed a court ruling that revoked their licenses, the country’s official gazette reported Sunday.
The law establishes the basis for operating licenses and fees, and requires licensed companies to store user data for 180 days and make it available to Egyptian security authorities upon request.
There was no immediate comment from Uber and Careem. Both companies, however, had welcomed the draft law when parliament approved it in May.
Both companies provide smartphone apps that connect passengers with drivers who work as independent contractors. In March, an Egyptian court deemed it illegal to use private vehicles for taxi services and ordered Uber and Careem’s apps to be blocked. But another court overruled that ruling in April, and both companies have since continued operating. The Supreme Administrative Court on Saturday adjourned the appeal to August 25.
Data privacy is a major concern for Uber in its dealings with the Egyptian government. The strict new European General Data Protection Regulation law comes into effect on May 25 and is expected to impact its operations worldwide.
Uber was founded in 2010 in San Francisco, and operates in more than 600 cities across the world. Careem was founded in 2012 in Dubai, and operates in 90 cities in the Middle East and North Africa, Turkey, and Pakistan.
The applications took off in Cairo, a city of 20 million people with near-constant traffic and shrinking parking space. The services have recently started offering rides on scooters and tuk-tuks, three-wheeled motorized vehicles that can sometimes squeeze through the gridlock.
The apps are especially popular among women, who face rampant sexual harassment in Egypt, including from some taxi drivers. Cairo’s taxi drivers are also notorious for tampering with their meters or pretending they’re broken to charge higher rates.
In 2016, taxi drivers protested the ride-hailing apps, complaining that their drivers have an unfair advantage because they don’tt have to pay the same taxes or fees, or follow the same licensing procedures.