Amazon’s boxless technology first appears in a rival store outside the United States

Amazon has reportedly landed its first customer outside the US for its boxless 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 run a cashless grocery store in London.

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

The store, located near Sainsbury’s headquarters on High Holborn, will use machine learning technology and cameras to track what shoppers buy. Customers scan in and out of the store with a QR code on Sainsbury’s app and are automatically charged for all items they leave the premises with. Sainsbury’s says the system does not use face recognition, does not share customer account data with the technology provider, and that images collected by the cameras are “normally” deleted within 30 days.

Amazon’s boxless technology was 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 stores are known as Amazon Fresh. The US technology giant has also sold 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 United Kingdom. The company markets its system as “Just Walk Out” technology. It has also slowly expanded the technology to cover larger grocery stores.

There have been some questions about the viability of Amazon’s technology – especially whether the cost of its systems is actually worth it to retailers. But the slow expansion of Amazon’s stores as well as similar offerings from rival technology startups and retailers suggest the idea has an innate appeal. Or, at the very least, companies do not want to be outmaneuvered by Amazon, and they are therefore running to keep up with the technology giant.

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

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