Panasonic and Lawson Test Self-Service Shopping Basket in Japan

Posted by at 10:50 am on December 13, 2016

Panasonic has introduced automated checkout machines that scan and bag items on their own.

As reported by The Wall Street Journal, shoppers drop items into a tech-savvy basket, which identifies products and calculates total charges.

Customers then place the crate into a designated slot, where the bottom slides out and the groceries are lowered gently into a plastic bag.

Panasonic is test-driving the system, expected to be fully operational in February, in a Lawson convenience store adjacent to its Osaka headquarters in Japan. Until electronic tags can be added to every product, shoppers must continue manually scanning items, the WSJ said.

Retail automation “could bring a revolution to the broader” industry, Lawson Inc. COO Sadanobu Takemasu told the newspaper. “We all face a scarcity of labor.”

This new program, however, is not intended to wipe out the human employee.

“Our store is also a point of communication with neighbors, where customers can enjoy chatting with clerks,” Takemasu said.

Neither Panasonic nor Lawson Inc. immediately responded to PCMag’s request for comment.

Amazon last week unveiled a similar, more seamless shopping experience: Visit an Amazon Go store, open the corresponding app, and scan your phone on the way in. Then simply grab all the items you need and walk out the door.

Leveraging what the company calls “the most advanced” machine learning, computer vision, and artificial intelligence technology, Amazon automatically adds up everything in your virtual cart, charges your account, and sends a receipt to the app.

The first Amazon Go location—a 1,800-square-foot store located at 2131 7th Ave.—is expected to launch early next year in Seattle. Interested shoppers can sign up online to be notified when the retailer opens.

As the WSJ pointed out, Amazon’s entirely digital approach may not appeal to consumers in Japan, where cash is still conventional. “We need a good solution also for customers who wouldn’t like a completely digitalized system,” Yasuyuki Fukui, a Panasonic business-development executive, told the Journal.

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