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The Almighty Buck Technology Hardware

Panasonic's New Shopping System Automatically Bags, Tallies Your Bill (techcrunch.com) 88

The Wall Street Journal is reporting (Warning: paywalled; alternate source) that Panasonic is "introducing convenience-store checkout machines that can scan and bag items on their own, joining Amazon.com Inc. in the push for more retail automation." The machines will also tally up the total amount owed at checkout so that all you have to do is pay. TechCrunch reports: Last week, Amazon revealed its own more frictionless convenience store pilot, with a location that lets shoppers simply walk out with whatever they want to purchase, for which they're charged automatically via their Amazon account. The Panasonic system uses tags applied to the goods you pick up to tally the cost as you shop, and then automatically bags your selections via a trap-door in the counter that accepts your basket when you're ready to go. It could help with lines, and could also help address some of the issues with current self-checkout system, which require a user to scan their own items to find out their bill prior to paying. That added step may seem small, but it actually causes a lot of headaches and hangups, especially with shoppers who aren't so comfortable with tech. Panasonic's setup is already in use at a Lawson convenience store near its Osaka HQ, but the broader rollout is still a while off.
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Panasonic's New Shopping System Automatically Bags, Tallies Your Bill

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Soon we won't have to interact with anyone at all, everyday!

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      Soon we won't have to interact with anyone at all, everyday!

      In the long run that's gotta have effects on the human psyche.

      "Sorry, but there is no severed human head registered in this store's catalog. We cannot process that item."

  • As a matter of policy I never use the automated checkout. I never push in a cart from the parking lot. These are tasks for employees who value/need their job. It's not my place to usurp that or contribute to bonuses for CEOs who will be rewarded for eliminating jobs. Perhaps this attitude will cost consumers a few extra pennies; I don't care.

    • Resigning people to do mundane, robotic tasks like checking out groceries makes them less human rather than more so. I'd rather they be liberated to do more fulfilling work.
      • who don't have the capacity for that work? Last I checked suicide booths were a no-no. I guess there's always the world's oldest profession, but I've got some problems with that being the difference between eating and not eating food.
        • by JoeyRox ( 2711699 ) on Monday December 12, 2016 @08:14PM (#53472793)
          What did we do with the millions that no longer work in agriculture? Or in jobs that disappeared as a result of the industrial revolution?
          • by Patent Lover ( 779809 ) on Monday December 12, 2016 @08:32PM (#53472917)
            They check out groceries in convenience stores.
            • They check out groceries in convenience stores.

              Nope. Back in the 19th century WAY more people worked in retail, because customers were not allowed near the merchandise. A customer would enter the store, walk up to the counter, and give a clerk their list of items. The clerk would then go into the storage room and retrieve the items, bring them to the counter, and tally the bill.

              This changed when "self-shopping" was introduced in the 1880s by F. W. Woolworth. This revolutionized retail, and created a whole new pastime of recreational shopping without

              • Though you add some interesting additional information, you're replying to what was intended as a joke. Woosh...
            • They enrol in continuing education and do volunteer in Africa

          • What did we do with the millions that no longer work in agriculture?

            Many starved. Most of the rest lived in grinding poverty. Eventually, the wheels of progress turned and their grandchildren were OK.

            • Do you have a reference that documents this? Not doubting you - just interested in reading the historical account of this.
          • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

            Eventually, probably fairly soon, robots will be good enough to do most low skill jobs.

            With the industrial revolution people were able to transition from one low skill agricultural job to another low skill manufacturing job, and then to a low skill service job. That's not going to be possible next time.

            We should see it as a good thing. People liberated from menial jobs. The transition will be difficult, and it will be made harder by some government's refusal to manage it, for political reasons.

        • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 )

          That's why universal basic income is something that is more and more talked about.
          Oh and great job insulting both minimum wage and sex workers. Implying that the former can go kill themselves and that the latter are good for nothing.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        There's nothing inherently dehumanizing about being a checker or cashier. Checkers in the olden days were faster than today's UPC scanners and still managed to add a shine to the buying process that is sorely lacking today. (I've noticed Costco still has it, though.) The only improvement I can really detect in today's automation is less repetitive stress injury for the cashiers, and the ability for buyers to avoid surly employees in establishments where customer service is not emphasized.

        Doing away with som

        • I agree but there's also nothing inherently humanizing or productive about people working jobs that can be performed more efficiently by robots.
      • You see it as mundane. Some see it as an opportunity to do an easy job and get to chat with people all day, especially regular customers.
    • by reanjr ( 588767 )

      If the service with human cashiers and cart management were the same quality as that provided by robots and self-storage of carts, then I might be compelled to do the same, but it is not my place to accept poor service to subsidize human labor.

    • I'd like the service customer industry replaced with robots as quickly as possible. There are few jobs more degrading than doing extremely repetitive physical tasks while having to smile at demanding rude idiots who treat you like dirt and try to take advantage of you all day. Past history shows that we've reduced or eliminated most other categories of horrible jobs and actually have a lower unemployment rate to show for it, so worrying about unemployment is dangerously counterproductive until it actually h

    • Any work that can be viably done by a machine, should be done by a machine, employing people for the sake of employing people is just downright moronic. Lets face it, sooner or later there will be very few jobs that actually need doing by a human, its going to happen anyway and lots of people will simply not have a job to do. Society will have to figure out this problem sooner or later anyway. We'll do just fine and figure it out.
  • It could, but it won't. Retails stores now only hire enough checkout clerks to keep customers from abandoning their shopping cart and walking out. When checkout clerks disappear, the stores will simply replace them with as few of these machines as possible. Your wait in line will still be just as long.
    • When I'm in line I'm flanked on all sides by additional purchasing opportunities. Magazines, Gum, Chapstick, USB wall chargers, you name it. The Longer I'm in line the more likely I am to buy just one more thing. Usually for a 30% mark up over an equivalent item at the back of the store. You think they're gonna give that up?
      • Usually for a 30% mark up over an equivalent item at the back of the store.

        An item's price at the front is going to be the same as its price at the back. The UPC code is the same, and the store has no way of knowing if you picked it up in line or while shopping at the back of the store. They're going to lose money every time someone has to stop the checkout process to say "that's the wrong price" or worse, return the item after it has been purchased.

        • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

          An item's price at the front is going to be the same as its price at the back. The UPC code is the same, and the store has no way of knowing if you picked it up in line or while shopping at the back of the store.

          In practice, the candy bars in the back of the store are sold in packs of 6 or whatever, rather than individually, so the UPC code is different, and they're marked up considerably when sold individually even though the actual cost to the store is probably slightly less.

          • In practice, the candy bars in the back of the store are sold in packs of 6 or whatever, rather than individually,

            Well, yeah. You pay extra for the convenience of buying one instead of six, and it costs the store more because they have to deal with individual sales instead of a single larger package. There's also more theft and damage in singles, and the shelf space is more valuable up front where impulse buys are a major factor.

            You're comparing apples to oranges. When they are truly equivalent, the UPC and the prices are the same.

            Do you have a citation for the costs being lower for single unit sales? The fact that t

            • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

              There's less packaging in bulk display packs (boxes of 30 or whatever) because they aren't wrapped in groups of 6 or whatever, so the manufacturing cost is lower. And small boxes can be stacked more densely than flat packages because the boxes provide some degree of crush protection, so chances are the shipping costs are lower, too.

              More to the point, if the per-unit price from the manufacturer were higher, most stores wouldn't buy the bulk display packs; they would buy the six-packs and rip them open (exc

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          They just make the ones by the checkouts slightly different and much more expensive. On the shelves you might be able to buy a 6 pack at $1/item, and at the till you can buy a single at £1.50.

          This trick is extremely common. "Tension headache" pain medication is actually identical to the basic general pain version, but costs more. The same razor in pink costs more than the identical blue one, or vice versa.

      • Self-checkout lines at Safeway at least don't have any impulse buy items to look at (nor any lines most of times of day). So they have given it up some places. It works out for them too, because a main reason I shop at Safeway instead of Walmart is that I don't have to deal with a line.

  • Stores seem to be tripping over themselves to spend money on automated systems to make it easy just to walk in and walk out with what you want. No extra fees, no hassle. People need to remember that any time.... any time they spend money it's with the expectation of getting twice as much back. The motivation can't be to get people in, because once more than one place has it it's no longer a novelty and they don't get increased business. So it's just a straight cost. So if it's just a straight cost, where is

    • without automation. They did it with shopper "loyalty" cards. They started with discounts, and then the discounts became part of the core price. I don't make enough money to take a 20% hit to my grocery bill in exchange for privacy. Most Americans don't.

      If you want real freedom you've got to be willing to let the other guy have some money, but as my right wing friends like to point out, who's gonna pay for that?
      • by rnturn ( 11092 )

        At least one of the major grocery chains around where I live (Chicago) did away with their loyalty cards. I seriously doubt we ever got a 20% discount for using one. They lowered their prices (somewhat) and seem to have a lot more buy-two|three|whatever-get-discount deals.

        I'm still not ready to entrust a company to have it's electronic hands on my wallet at an automated checkout line. (Go ahead and call me "old school"... I like it.)

    • The bigger benefit to the store is that when it's easier to buy stuff you buy more stuff. In particular with Amazon's strategy, where you don't even have to check the price or pay in the store. If deceptive $19.99 a month payment plans snare so many people, imagine how easy it is to snare people into buying lots of junk they don't need when the payment is an invisible automatic thing in the background that they don't have to worry about.

    • Who benefits?

      the store owners cut costs associated with staff and make bigger profits BUT you now have a lot of people who used to work now becoming unemployed.

      Fair enough a checkout operator is not the best job in the world but it does provide employment for some - in addition to their pay they get social and other benefits which they wouldn't get on the dole.

      And when the staff are dismissed, who pays their unemployment benefit and other welfare costs? You & me via our taxes.

      At the 'bottom of the pi

  • Folks:

    There have been problems with hackers installing credit/debit card skimmers at gas pumps.

    Now, they choose the pumps furthest out from the convenience store itself so that the human clerk inside does not see what they are doing.

    Now that the clerk is about to be replace by one of these Panasonic machines, will these machines do any better job keeping an eye on the gas pumps to make sure that no one is installing credit/debit card skimmers?

    • Considering that some employees in retail steal credit cards numbers I'm guessing it'll be a wash.
  • For the economics to work. Its 7 to 15 cents now according to RFID Journal (google). At one time Walmart was talking about rfid-tagging everything, but settled at the pallet level. I dont know what the bottleneck was. I like my library system for automatically checking out and returning books.
    • People already try to switch the price tags on items and argue they should get the lower price. How do you prevent them from switching the RFID tag with one for a cheaper item? When you have no checker to verify, seems like that could become a problem.

      • Theft of all kinds if inevitable in retail, you just chuck it up with all the other operational costs and operational costs are after all included in the price of all the items.
      • You would have to switch it with a tag from another items that weighs the same thing. It should be on a scale (I saw that it required everything to have a tag and stopped reading since that's stupid).

  • ... is wrong?

    How do you dispute charges for something like this? How do you prove that you didn't walk out of there with something that their computer system says that you did?

    While the convenience is nice for something like this, and as long as it is working as it is intended, everything will be fine.

    But you know... Murphy's law and everything.

  • I am impressed by the speed and accuracy of object recognition in the google ML self-driving system. These could examine to objects being purchased as a security backup, much like supers use weight now.
    • If they require the customers to self-tag for wireless payment, they could continue to attempt to use weight. It would be amusing to see the customer scales at the restroom entrances.
  • Whay cant the trolley bill you? Everything has a barcode, or is image identifiable. Just have it ringed by cameras pointing inward on the trolleys rim and a simple weight sensors to confirm placement. Image and/or barcode recognise objecta. Optical flow processing and weight sensor processing. A bunch of raspi zeros and picams should do the job.

    • Because it will frequently fail. Try leaving that out in the rainy parking lot and see how long it lasts. It needs power, so now you have to recharge all your shopping carts every night, and of course they cost twice as much as a normal shopping cart. How does the customer dispute an error?, and yes errors will happen. Also, it's then so much easier to game the system to rip off the store.

      This is one of those pipe dream ideas that always show up on TV commercials for big tech companies, yet nobody s
  • you gotta break a lot of eggs......to buy groceries
  • Sam's Club has a similar system on line now too. It's an app that you install on your smartphone. You scan each item into the app as you put it into your cart, then hit the "checkout" button to verify your payment. You show your phone to the receipt checker at the door, who scans it with a handheld scanner to verify that you paid for everything in your cart, and you are done.

    IMO, it's not a bigger threat to employees than the self-checkout kiosks. It simply reduces the utilization of the self-checkout lines

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