Kroger, Microsoft Create Futuristic Grocery Store. Amazon, Take Note

Krogers and Microsoft have teamed up to create a better check out experience (read: take on Amazon). Leveraging a digital shelving system and mounted cameras, the new experience is intended to personalize the shopping experience while also helping in store support staff assist customers and ensure stocking is done promptly. displays that light up with a personalized icon when shoppers reach an item they put on the shopping list in the Kroger app. Ellipse-shaped black-and-white devices that look like a cross between a camera and a smoke detector are mounted on ceilings, crunching data and monitoring for out-of-stock items. In a refrigerated meat case, temperature sensors appear every few feet, automatically flagging workers if the case warms up too much, helping prevent the roughly $10,000 worth of meat inside from spoiling.
The smart shelves light up to help store employees pick orders for Kroger’s curbside grocery pickup service, where customers order online and then later in the day have their bags brought out to their car in the parking lot. The companies say this “pick-to-light” system can cut in half the time required to pick each order, a possible advantage as rivals such as Walmart and Target perfect their own curbside pickup services.

The self checkout space continues to attract talent and venture dollars. The co-founder of Pandora announced his company Grabango along with a $12 million Series A to create the Amazon Go for everyone. Given how buggy the Amazon Go experience still is and the lack of any startups actually having working technology in the space (despite the now hundreds of millions of dollars and massive amounts of time, money and effort), part of me secretly wonders if it's all a long con by Amazon. Focus everyone's attention on the bright shiny object over there before launching what they truly believe will be the retail as a service model, catching everyone by surprise.


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