Artificial Intelligence (AI), Commercial, Gunnebo Business Solutions, Gunnebo Retail Solution, Machine Learning (ML), USA

Autonomous and Frictionless Stores

Earlier this year, I visited US for a couple of weeks, and having a genuine interest in retail technology, I visited quite a few retail stores. I went to see classical stores, but also had the chance to have a preview of the future of retail: Autonomous and Frictionless Stores!

Customers in this digital world don’t want to spend too much time while shopping. They want everything to happen very fast. Customers are looking for a seamless shopping experience all the time. That’s how the concept of frictionless stores came to exist. Frictionless stores are one the biggest new thing in consumer shopping.

iot smart retail futuristic technology concept, happy girl try to use smart display with virtual or augmented reality in the shop or retail to choose select ,buy cloths and give a rating of products
Photo: Adobe Stock

What are Frictionless Stores

The concept of frictionless stores started a few years ago. When I talk to retailers this is one of the topics that always pops up. All major brands are looking for innovative ways to create better customer experience and frictionless stores is one way to make that happen. These store improves the shopping experience to the point where customers don’t have to wait at any point of shopping such as selecting, receiving and paying for the product. Initially frictionless stores only confined to ease and less hassle shopping. But as innovations such as mobile wallets, digital receipts, free and fast shipping, and one-click purchasing emerged and began to reshape the consumer shopping experience, the definition began to be reshaped as well. Today, a frictionless experience means more than just less hassle. It means greater speed, personalization, and wow experiences.

How Frictionless Stores work

Let’s try to understand ow frictionless stores work. In frictionless stores, Buyers and sellers are connected in a way that provides buyers the ability to instantly find, compare and buy products and services they need. In frictionless stores, customers should feel that they have full control. The concept and technology has evolved over time, and nowadays customers expect to have this experience through their smartphones. Retailers and brands are trying to find new ways modifying the definition of frictionless stores to provide customers the best possible shopping experience. They need that commitment to stay ahead of the competition. As a result of that, nowadays, frictionless shopping means eliminating anything that negatively impacts customer experience.

Importance of Frictionless Stores

How has frictionless shopping fared according to researches? Alliance Datacenter has done a study and found out that customers from all generations looking for a great service and an ideal shopping experience. This is true for all the areas in the world. If some brand fails to deliver what they want, customers will find a different one. According to the research, 76 percent of consumers said they give brands only two to three times before they stop shopping with them.  Another 43 percent said their main reason to leave a brand is poor experience in shopping. What all these means is that if a customer encounters friction they will run away from that brand fast without probably giving a second chance.

Amazon Go Stores

Similar to frictionless stores, Amazon introduced Amazon Go stores. What is special about Amazon Go is you don’t have to wait for checkouts. That basically means you no longer have to wait in queues. First Amazon Go store was a grocery store of 1800 square feet. It spread fast, in fact, you can see a lot of Amazon Go stores now in the USA and Europe.

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How is this even possible? What technologies have they used? Amazon was doing many types of research in the areas of computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning. Amazon Go is a fruitful result of that. You need Amazon Go application to do shopping with Amazon Go stores. All you have to do open your Go app, choose the product you want, buy it and the just leave. This application can detect when a product is purchased or returned to the shop. The application can remember what you bought and you can revisit these details at your virtual cart. When you finish shopping, you will be charged and you will receive a receipt for what you buy

Buy Awesome foods with Amazon Go stores

You may wonder now what you can buy there? What items are available on Amazon Go stores? I will just point out how one Amazon Go store had marketed their shop. “We offer all the delicious meals for breakfast, lunch or dinner. We have many fresh snack options made every day by our chefs at our local kitchens and bakeries. You can buy a range of grocery items from milk and locally made chocolates to staples like bread and artisan cheeses. Try us, you will find well-known brands you love in our shops.” by the way, don’t expect to go in there and buy books, tech or clothes or anything else that Amazon sells online. It’s basically quick-and-easy food and other groceries. It’s just that there’s no cashier.

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So many people have been attracted to Amazon Go stores so it is quite evident that this concept will make a huge impact on the future of retail stores.

If you want to know more about frictionless Sstores, feel free to contact me at: bjorn.nostdahl@gunnebo.com or check out these related articles:

Travel, USA

U.S.A. here I come

In January, I had a great opportunity to join the NRF Big Retail Expo and Microsoft LEAP on behalf of the Gunnebo Business Solutions Retail team. In the gap between the two events, I had a week of spare time that I spent roaming around the Eastern part of the country.

In my adventures, I was joined by my son Sondre and my brother Vidar.

While I was working, my traveling companions spent a few days in and around New York center. I managed to have an express city tour by bus on the last day of the exhibition and I even found the cheapest Manhattan beer in Johnnys Bar.

We also took a ride from New York to Lakehurst to see the Hindenburg crash site.

The 20th century was marked by an impressive list of disasters. But the crash of the German zeppelin Hindenburg surpassed many of them, having provided a never-before-witnessed visual spectacle. The zeppelin was a pride of the Nazi airship fleet. Being 804 feet long, it was the biggest aircraft ever built. On May 6, 1937, it was landing at a navy base in Lakehurst, New Jersey, on the biggest empty site close to Manhattan. The Hindenburg was handling an immense flying bomb. Suddenly it burst into flames and crashed. As a result, thirty-six people died. So did the popularity of zeppelins as means of transatlantic transit.

Plan de travail 1
© pict rider – stock.adobe.com

The site where the Hindenburg crashed is still deserted and windswept – just crumbled asphalt and occasional scrubby weeds. And it’s still a part of an acting navy base, which means that everyone who wants a tour has to be screened weeks in advance. Unfortunately for us, we were civilians and foreigners. So, after a thorough investigation, we had to make a u-turn out of the base.

us army soldier outdoors
© michaeljung – stock.adobe.com

Having been politely rejected at the navy base, we decided to stop for a beer before driving through Philadelphia. Our choice fell on the themed Paddy’s pub based on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”,  an American sitcom created by Robert McElhenney and Glenn Howerton. The series tells about a group of antisocial and self-indulgent friends who call themselves “The Gang” and run the Irish bar in South Philadelphia.

Alack, my son is only 20 years old and in the US, it is not permitted for minors to sit at the bar until they are 21. So, we were rather rudely rejected.

But every cloud has a silver lining. Having been expelled from Paddy’s pub, we moved on to Max’s Tavern which is actually run by Robert McElhenney and Kaitlin Olson. We were warmly welcomed there and really enjoyed our evening in a spirit of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”.

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The next day we went on the road again, heading for Washington, the District of Columbia, commonly referred to as Washington D.C., the capital of the United States.

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We started from the White House, but were abruptly shuffled away by the Secret Service due to a security situation in which they could not guarantee for our safety. The United States Secret Service (also known as USSS or Secret Service) is a federal law enforcement agency under the Department of Homeland Security.  It conducts criminal investigations and protects the nation’s leaders – so, quite a great deal for us to have been fussed by them.

Politics will only get you so far, so we felt like changing the scenery and listening to some music. Nothing better than Nashville,  the capital and most populous city of the American state of Tennessee. The city is famous for its country and rock music, so, we really enjoyed our time there.

After enjoying the Devil’s music in Nashville, with an “obscene belly and shaking that notorious leg”, we needed some religious fuel.

The Ark Encounter in Petersburg, Kentucky, where we headed next, is a reconstruction of Noah’s ark, built to biblical specs. It is one of the largest timber-frame constructions in the world. Simply imagine the structure longer than 1.5 football fields and higher than a four-story building – and that will be just the thing. Inside, there is a Creation Museum with numerous exhibits, botanic gardens, planetarium, zoo, zip line adventure course, and much more. No wonder it attracts millions of guests.

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Being an atheist, this impressed me in quite a few ways. The effort and money spent to prove the biblical and question the scientific approach to history – but also the number of people actually believing in Creationism.  Hopefully, progress does not stand still. Even Pope Francis has stated recently that the evolution theory and the religious teaching on creation don’t actually contradict each other and has cautioned against portraying God as a kind of magician who made the universe with a magic wand.

We enjoyed ourselves in Cincinnati for a few hours, and then the trip continued to the former automobile capital – the city of Detroit, Michigan. The city has gone through a dramatic economic and demographic decline over the recent decades, so, now it can hardly be called the most pleasant place to visit. Local crime rates are among the highest in the United States, and vast areas of the city are in a state of severe decay. My son Sondre insisted on getting out of the city as soon as possible, and we all felt really uncomfortable among the abandoned neighborhoods.

Abandoned Packard Factory 9
© Atomazul – stock.adobe.com

Our journey continued to Canada. We visited Toronto, the capital of the province of Ontario and the largest city in Canada by population (almost 3 million residents).

Toronto's Winter skyline, the view from Cherry Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
© Roland – stock.adobe.com

When we arrived, the weather was terrible and we urged for some entertainment. Vidar found a tribute band performing the songs of Thomas Alan Waits.  For those who are unfamiliar, it is an American singer, musician, and actor. He primarily worked  in jazz but also wrote blues, vaudeville, and experimental music, and his lyrics focused on the underside of U.S. society. In 2005, a group of musicians from Toronto started to perform renditions of Tom Waits’ songs – and they are still doing it. We spent the evening with this great tribute band having Little Norway beer.

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Next day, we rushed off to Niagara Falls (the collective name for three waterfalls on the border between Canada and the USA. The site is really tremendous and worth seeing.

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After so much water, we set our minds to fire and decided to visit a coal seam fire in the borough of Centralia, Pennsylvania, back in the USA. The fire is burning in underground coal mines at depths of up to 90 m.  It started yet in the sixties, most likely, from the deliberate burning of trash in a former mine. Now it covers about 15 square kilometers and is the major reason why residents are abandoning this area. The population of Centralia dwindled from around 1,400 at the time the fire started to 10 in 2017. Most of the buildings have come apart. They say the fire can continue to burn for over 250 years at its current rate.

Having made a circle, we finally came back to New Jersey for a short final trip around the peninsula. A cozy family dinner with Sangria, steak and a lot of good conversation was a wonderful last chord in our adventures.

Now I am off to Seattle, where more posts will follow from my visit to Microsoft in Redmond and attendance of the LEAP program 🙂

Communism, Reflections, Travel, Ukraine

Fire in Chernobyl Zone Again

The news about wildfire raging in Red Forest reminded me of my visit to Chernobyl this February – and of even more distant past when I first learned about this place.

https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/chernobyl-fire-2018

https://www.vg.no/nyheter/utenriks/i/1kGA1B/skogbrann-herjer-i-tsjernobyl

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Newspaper front page from 1986

I was eleven then. The news about the disaster was shocking. It got etched in my memory forever. Together with the first disgraceful truth that I learned about communism. For several weeks, people in the Soviet Union were unaware of the accident, which led to thousands of needless untimely deaths. And who knows if they would have learned at all if the radioactive cloud hadn’t crossed the borders of the USSR. It was an unforgivable lie.

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The hotel where we stayed during our summer holiday of 1987

And the lie permeated the communist regime through. I learned even more about it a year later, during my visit to Bulgaria. The country belonged to the Soviet bloc then. There, for the first time, we violated the law by participating in illegal currency exchange – well, there actually were no other options, as the regime exchange rates were half than we could achieve on the black market. Communism forces people to lie and makes the crime the only way to survive: it is much easier to rule the people who feel insecure, scared, and guilty.

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Me, my brother Jon Helge and my cousins Svein Erik and Hanne

“Divide and conquer” – that’s another motto of this regime. The Iron Curtain, which separated the countries of the Soviet bloc from the rest of the world, created myths. It stressed and exaggerated differences. For decades, people of the Soviet Union were limited in their contacts with the rest of the world. Neither Europeans were welcomed in the USSR. We also could learn about many things only from the newspaper.

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LADA, most probably the same model that my grandfather Asbjørn owned

That’s why when, during my visit to Kyiv this winter, I was proposed to visit Chernobyl zone, I agreed, of course. The visit started like any other work-related trip. Meetings all day with our partner Trembit in Kiev. Trembit works with large organizations as well as startups utilizing Agile methodologies to deliver full-featured functionality. Trembit has been a partner for us in Node-RED for quite some time, and you will find many of our projects here on this blog.

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Duga (Russian: Дуга) was a Soviet over-the-horizon (OTH) radar system used as part of the Soviet anti-ballistic missile early-warning network. The system operated from July 1976 to December 1989. Two operational Duga radars were deployed, one near Chernobyl and Chernihiv in the Ukrainian SSR (present-day Ukraine), the other in eastern Siberia.

After thirty years, the place still reminds the desert. Very few people live here. Dilapidated houses, derelict yards… looters stalking in the search of pickings. It’s a post-apocalyptic world in the miniature.

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Fair at the Pripyat city outside Chernobyl.

Though, very slowly, Chernobyl is coming back to life. The nature revives. Wild animals here have forgotten about danger and aren’t afraid of humans at all. You can see a fox or even a deer crossing the street in a broad daylight.

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And when I recollect my visit to Chernobyl and my childhood memories, the question arises in my mind again and again: can we totally prevent such disasters in the future? I believe the only way to it is by joining forces to spread and strengthen European democratic values – openness, collaboration, and freedom of voice all around Europe and around the globe.

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I have worked in Bulgaria, Serbia, Ukraine, Romania, Russia, and Poland – most countries of Eastern Europe. People are the same everywhere. Of course, post-communist echo can sometimes still be heard in the countries of the former Soviet camp. But there is a great potential for cooperation. Western and Eastern Europe working together is our only chance to build the society in which Chernobyl will never repeat.