A store without cashiers opens in China’s “future city”
JD.com’s self-service supermarket outside Beijing uses facial recognition technology to track shoppers
It’s supposed to be the home of China’s latest innovations. It wasn’t until a year ago that Xiongan New Area entered the lexicon in China. Handpicked by President Xi Jinping in April 2017, the once-stagnant Xiongan New Area just outside Beijing was recast overnight as a “city of the future”.
One of the first projects is now open: An unmanned supermarket from retail giant JD.com.
The 2,650-square-foot outlet uses cameras and RFID (radio frequency identification) tags to record what products a shopper has taken off the shelf.
When you walk in, you need to open a mini program on WeChat and take a selfie. That gives you a unique QR code to scan at the turnstile, where a camera checks if your face matches the code.
Once you’re inside, dozens of facial recognition cameras track your movement from above -- as you pick up items like chips, biscuits, and pre-packaged fruit.
After you’ve finished grabbing everything you want, check out by walking through the “billing tunnel”. A sensor automatically reads the RFID chip on each item and tallies up the bill. A camera confirms who you are and charges your payment account. The whole process is said to take around 20 seconds.
The technology here looks similar to that used in a cashierless store opened by Alibaba in its Hangzhou headquarters: Both use facial recognition. On the other hand, Tencent’s pop-up unmanned shop in Shanghai only required shoppers to scan a QR code on WeChat when they enter and leave.
Around the world, companies are using new technology to change the way people shop in physical stores. While shoppers may benefit from convenience, companies are also gathering more data from stores like this, learning a customer’s buying habits, favorite brands, and even emotions.
JD.com, which currently has unmanned stores in more than 10 Chinese cities, has said it wants to open hundreds more around the country.