DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – The Middle East had its first fully automated cashier-less store on Monday, as retail giant Carrefour unfurled its vision for the industry’s future in a cavernous mall from Dubai.
Like Amazon’s revolutionary unmanned grocery stores that opened in 2018, the Carrefour mini-market looks like any regular convenience store, chock-full of sodas and snacks, tucked between the sprawling storefronts of this city- State.
But hidden among the familiar fare is a sophisticated system that tracks shoppers’ movements, eliminating the checkout line and allowing people to grab the products they’ll be leaving with. Only those who have the store’s smartphone app can enter. Nearly a hundred small surveillance cameras line the ceiling. Countless sensors line the shelves. Five minutes after shoppers leave, their phones ring with receipts for whatever they put in their bags.
“This is what the future will look like,” Hani Weiss, CEO of retail at Majid Al Futtaim, the franchise that operates Carrefour in the Middle East, told The Associated Press. “We believe in physical stores in the future. However, we believe the experience will change.
The experimental store, called Carrefour City +, is the latest addition to the burgeoning field of retail automation. Large retailers around the world are combining machine learning software and artificial intelligence in an effort to reduce labor costs, eliminate the irritation of long queues, and collect data reviews of buying behavior.
“We use (the data) to deliver a better experience in the future… whereby customers don’t have to think about what next products they want,” Weiss said. “All the information is used internally to provide a better shopping experience. “
Customers must give Carrefour permission to collect their information, said Weiss, which the company pledges not to share. But the idea of a large retail seller collecting tons of data on shoppers’ habits has already raised privacy concerns in the United States, where Amazon now operates several of these futuristic stores, known as Amazon. Go. This is less likely to become a public debate in the autocratic UAE, which is home to one of the highest concentrations of surveillance cameras per capita in the world.
As the pandemic forces large retailers to reassess the future, many are increasingly investing in automation – a vision that threatens severe job losses across the industry. But Carrefour stressed that human workers, at least in the short term, would still be needed to “support customers” and support machines.
“There is no future without humans,” Weiss said.