Amazon smart cart lets grocery shoppers skip checkout

Amazon’s latest cashierless shopping innovation comes as stores and customers strive to do business while reducing risk of exposure to coronavirus. (AFP)
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Updated 15 July 2020

Amazon smart cart lets grocery shoppers skip checkout

  • The Dash Cart requires a smartphone loaded with the Amazon application

SAN FRANCISCO: Amazon has introduced a smart grocery cart that will let shoppers skip checkout queues.

Amazon’s latest cashierless shopping innovation comes as merchants and customers strive to do business while reducing risk of exposure to coronavirus.

Dash Carts that use embedded sensors and cameras to tally prices of items placed inside will debut in an Amazon grocery store to open in southern California later this year.

“It’s a new smart shopping cart that makes a quick grocery trip even quicker by allowing you to skip the checkout line,” the technology titan, which owns the Whole Foods market chain, said in a post.

“When you’re done shopping, you’ll simply exit through the store’s Amazon Dash Cart lane, and your receipt will be emailed to you.”

Each cart uses computer vision software and sensor data to identify what is put inside, showing a running total along with item descriptions and prices on a display, according to Amazon.

Using a Dash Cart requires a smartphone loaded with the Amazon application, which synchs by scanning a QR code and then charges the purchase to the credit card on file, the US-based company explained.

Amazon early this year began offering its “just walk out” technology to other retailers in a move aimed at boosting the use of the cashierless store system.

“Just Walk Out technology enables shoppers to simply enter a store, grab what they want, and just go,” the website said.

The move came shortly after Amazon launched its first full-size grocery store in Seattle using the cashierless model.

Amazon has already opened more than 20 smaller Amazon Go stores using the same system, including in New York, Chicago and San Francisco.

The Go stores allow pre-registered customers to skip the cashier and allow their credit cards to be billed for their purchases, with the technology detecting what they take and return to the shelves.


Taps and reservoirs run dry as Moroccan drought hits farmers

Updated 22 October 2020

Taps and reservoirs run dry as Moroccan drought hits farmers

  • The problems caused by increasingly erratic rainfall and the depletion of groundwater are growing every year in Morocco

RABAT: Two years of drought have drained reservoirs in southern Morocco, threatening crops the region relies on and leading to nightly cuts in tap water for an area that is home to a million people.

In a country that relies on farming for two jobs in five and 14 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP), the problems caused by increasingly erratic rainfall and the depletion of groundwater are growing every year.

In the rich citrus plantations of El-Guerdan, stretching eastward from the southern city of Agadir, more than half of farmers rely on two dams in the mountains of Aoulouz, 126 km away, to irrigate their trees.

However, that water has been diverted to the tourist hub of Agadir, where mains water has been cut to residential areas every night since Oct. 3 to ensure taps in households did not run entirely dry.

“The priority should go to drinking water,” Agriculture Minister Aziz Akhannouch said in parliament last week.

In El-Guerdan, Youssef Jebha’s crop of clementine oranges has been compromised by reduced water supply, he said, which affects both the quality of fruit and the size of the harvest.

“The available ground water is barely enough to keep the trees alive,” said Jebha, who is head of a regional farmers’ association.

“Saving Agadir should not be at the expense of El-Guerdan farmers,” he added, speaking by phone.

‘We hope for rain’

El-Guerdan is not alone in facing drought. Morocco’s harvest of cereals this year was less than half that of 2019, meaning hundreds of millions of dollars of extra import costs.

Despite lower production, Moroccan exports of fresh produce have risen this year by 8 percent. 

Critics of the government’s agricultural policy say such sales are tantamount to exporting water itself, given the crops use up so many resources.

A report by Morocco’s social and environmental council, an official advisory body, warned that four-fifths of the country’s water resources could vanish over the next 25 years.

It also warned of the risks to social peace due to water scarcity. In 2017, 23 people were arrested after protests over water shortages in the southeastern city of Zagora.

In January the government said it would spend $12 billion on boosting water supply over the next seven years by building new dams and desalination plants.

One $480 million plant, with a daily capacity of 400,000 cubic meters, is expected to start pumping in March, with the water divided between residential areas and farms.

Until then, “We hope for rain,” the agriculture minister said in parliament.

In El-Guerdan, the farmers are digging for water. A new well costs $20,000-30,000. However, “there is no guarantee water can be found due to the depletion of ground reserves,” said Ahmed Bounaama, another farmer.