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Amazon’s cashierless tech makes first appearance in a rival store outside the US

The US retailer’s tech is becoming more common

An Amazon Go store in the US in 2018.
Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

Amazon has reportedly landed its first customer outside the US for its cashierless retail technology. According to Bloomberg News, the UK’s second largest supermarket chain, Sainsbury’s, will use Amazon’s system of AI-powered surveillance cameras to power a cashierless grocery store in London.

Sainsbury’s own FAQ for the store, which is reportedly due to open to the public on November 29, says that the technology is being provided by an unnamed “third-party supplier.” But Bloomberg says that supplier is Amazon, citing a source “familiar with the matter.” We reached out to Sainsbury’s for comment but the company provided only a generic statement saying it was “currently testing” cashierless tech at the store in question.

The shop, located near Sainsbury’s headquarters on High Holborn, will use machine learning technology and cameras to track what shoppers pick up. Customers scan in and out of the store with a QR code on the Sainsbury’s app and are charged automatically for any items they leave the premises with. Sainsbury’s says the system doesn’t use facial recognition, doesn’t share customers’ account data with the tech’s supplier, and that images collected by the cameras are “usually” deleted within 30 days.

Amazon’s cashierless tech first launched to the public in 2018 with a single Amazon Go store in Seattle. The company now has a few dozen US locations as well as six stores in the UK, where the shops are known as Amazon Fresh. The US tech giant has also been selling its systems to other retailers, including three in the US (Hudson markets, OTG CIBO Express, and Delaware North) and, according to Bloomberg’s report, Sainsbury’s in the UK. The company markets its system as “Just Walk Out” technology. It’s also been slowly expanding the tech to cover larger grocery stores.

There have been some questions about the viability of Amazon’s technology — particularly whether the expense of its systems is actually worth it for retailers. But the slow expansion of Amazon’s stores as well as similar offerings from rival tech startups and retailers suggest the idea has some innate appeal. Or, at least, companies don’t want to find themselves outmaneuvered by Amazon and so are racing to keep up with the tech giant.

On London’s High Holborn alone, you can now find three cashierless grocery stores (though only one is currently open to the public). In addition to the Sainsbury’s shop there’s an Amazon Fresh (the company’s seventh in London) and the first ever cashierless store from Tesco, built using technology from Israeli startup Trigo.