Amazon Go is a heck of a good move in the game of artificial intelligence that is driving the tech sector.
With a simple video, Amazon has set in motion a chain of forces that could drive RFID into the mainstream and help Amazon pull further ahead of Google. It’s just one move, and nothing may come of it, but it sends out many ripples.
The video creates expectations among consumers that they should be able to avoid check-out lines. It puts big grocery chains on notice that they need to figure out how to use RFID tags to create such stores before their competitors do.
Grocery stories won’t want to make this move. It will cost a lot to get items tagged, buy scanners, and figure out how to deal with inevitable conflicts when customers complain that they were charged for the wrong items. But the ones that do it will have a significant competitive advantage.
However the struggles come out for grocery stores, RFID wins. It moves from use in the industrial Internet of Things to the consumer world big time.
These technical transitions can take many years. Note that the U.S. is only now starting to field smart cards, which have been used in Europe for a decade.
No one wants to be the first to spend the money to swap out hardware. But Amazon’s video has created a new customer expectation of ease of use that may force the move.
Of course, Amazon believes it will be the biggest winner with Go.
In the AI era, cloud computing giants win by having the biggest data sets. Today, retailers are just starting to mine their customer data with loyalty cards and programs. The new video is a giant billboard telling retailers that Amazon has the cloud back-end to run the RFID check-out service. It’s a giant data set ripe for the picking.
In AI, the bigger the data set, the better the models you can create with it. The better the models, the better the predictions.
Google got into mobile and now even makes smartphones, in part to get the eyeballs and increasingly to get the data sets. With Amazon Go, one of Google's archrivals just went for another big piece of the data cheese.
I don’t expect that Amazon will say much about the hardware in its giant data centers, although it did recently announce that it was making available cloud services running Xilinx FPGA accelerators. Even Google, which is becoming a bit more open, hasn’t detailed its AI accelerator.
One thing you can know for sure: if you buy a dozen eggs and don’t have to wait in a check-out line, the online bookseller will be thinking deeply about what your purchase means.
— Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times