By TOMOHIRO YAMAMOTO/ Staff Writer
August 31, 2021 at 18:45 JST
No humans will be on hand to serve customers at a new Tokyo convenience store, to which shoppers enter by waving their smartphones at the gate and checkout without going through a cash register.
The test store in the capital’s Koto Ward is scheduled to open on Sept. 2.
The store was set up to address the chronic staff shortages in the convenience store industry, according to retailing chain Daiei Inc. and information technology company NTT Data Corp., which jointly developed it.
The need for stores without cash registers is also growing to reduce the risks of transmitting and contracting the novel coronavirus, according to Hiroshi Yamauchi, chief of Daiei’s department of information and communication technology business.
“We want to use this pilot program to examine if we can operate the shop efficiently (without staff),” he said.
Customers can settle their accounts faster than they do at self-checkouts in human-staffed convenience stores, the companies said.
The Koto Ward test store, which is located near NTT Data’s head office, is about 40 square meters and offers 600 items.
To shop, customers need to wave their smartphones showing a dedicated app for the store at the store’s gate.
Artificial intelligence analyzes footage from 32 cameras on the store’s ceiling and data from sensors on shelves to identify products customers bought.
Their purchases are charged to their credit cards linked to their smartphones when they leave the store.
The unmanned shop is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Up to 10 people can shop simultaneously and items are refilled once a day in the morning.
Daiei and NTT Data said they are also considering opening a store with 2,000 items.
Lawson Inc. has also opened unmanned convenience stores without checkout counters in Japan, by collaborating with Fujitsu Ltd.
But NTT Data said its technology allows customers to confirm their payments on their smartphone’s screen right after exiting a store and can send a coupon to customers’ smartphones to buy food at the store that is nearing its expiration date.
The company said it plans to pitch the technology to other retailers as well.
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