Gadget

Amazon says a whopping 140 third-party stores in four countries use its Just Walk Out tech

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Amazon published a blog post on Wednesday providing an update about its Just Walk Out technology, which it reportedly pulled from its Fresh grocery stores earlier this month. While extolling Just Walk Out’s virtues as a sales pitch to potential retail partners, the article lists a startlingly minuscule number of (non-Amazon) stores using the tech. There are now “more than 140 third-party locations with Just Walk Out technology in the U.S., UK, Australia, and Canada.”

Mind you, that isn’t the number of companies or retail chains licensing the tech; that’s the total number of locations. Nor is that the tally in one state or even one country. In four countries combined — with a total population of about 465 million — Just Walk Out is being used in “more than 140 third-party locations.”

On average, that means there’s one third-party Just Walk Out store for every 3.3 million people in those four countries. (They must be busy!) By contrast, there are over one million retail locations in the US, and, as of 2019, Starbucks had 241 locations in New York City alone, and there are over one million

Amazon had reportedly already planned to remove Just Walk Out tech from its Fresh grocery stores for roughly a year because it was too expensive and complicated for larger retail spaces to run and maintain. The company now pitches its tech as ideal for smaller convenience stores with fewer customers and products — like its own Amazon Go stores, which it has been busy shutting down over the last couple of years.

A medical workers scans a badge at an Amazon-powered Just Walk Out kiosk in a hospital.

Amazon

The company reportedly gutted the team of developers working on Just Walk Out tech earlier this month. (You get one guess as to how the laid-off workers were instructed to leave the office.) As part of recent layoffs from Amazon’s AWS unit and Physical Stores Team, the company allegedly left only “a skeleton crew” to work on the tech moving forward. A skeleton crew to maintain a skeleton sounds about right.

In fairness, some of those locations are at high-traffic venues. That includes nine merch stores at Seattle’s Lumen Field (home to the Seahawks and Sounders), near Amazon’s headquarters. Delaware North, a large hospitality and entertainment company, has opened “more than a dozen” stores using the tech. Amazon says stores adopting Just Walk Out have reported increased transactions, sales and customer satisfaction.

Despite the reported gutting of Just Walk Out’s development team, Amazon says it “continues to invent the next generation of this technology to improve the checkout experience for large-format stores.” Its next steps include improving latency for “faster and more reliable receipts,” new algorithms to recognize customer actions and new sensors better.

If the reports about layoffs are accurate, the handful of remaining Just Walk Out developers will have their work cut out for them.

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