Late last year, Amazon announced it was evaluating a breakthrough concept in Point of Sale technology - a no checkout, self-service physical grocery store.
Using a mobile phone app which checks customers into the store and links to on shelf sensors to detect what they have picked up, payments are processed automatically. Amazon compared the technology as something more akin to driverless vehicle systems than conventional POS - in their words, a combination of “computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning.”
For now, the trial is restricted to a single employee only store at Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle.
The far out concept comes across as pure R&D with mountains of obstacles to it ever taking off commercially. But what is interesting about the trial is that it makes use of technological innovations which are driving genuine changes in POS in the here and now - mobile, cloud, contactless and RFID scanners.
Simple, Straightforward Service
The main drivers of change in POS are the business benefits of making systems more flexible and easier to use, freeing up staff to focus on service where and when it is needed and reducing the training burden on employers. Overall, POS systems are evolving to be more responsive to customers’ needs.
Mobile devices are playing a central role in this evolution. Tablet POS interfaces mean sales transactions are no longer restricted to fixed locations in stores with static terminals. With a tablet and WiFi connectivity, staff can take the register with them, making it much easier to integrate sales with customer service.
In a large retail store, for example, a member of staff can take the tablet to the customer when they have a query, using it to look up information such as stock availability as required. If the customer is happy and wants to buy, the purchase can be completed there and then. It saves time going back and forth to fixed checkouts, making service more efficient and more responsive.
Similarly, in restaurants and other hospitality settings, tablet POS devices mean orders can be processed at the table, removing the need to write orders on paper and then duplicate work by typing them into the desktop.
This step towards mobile POS is enabled by other technologies. Cloud based hosted software solutions make POS much more scalable, as to add another device to the system, all you have to do is log on to the network. POS tablets therefore offer an affordable solution because they reduce capital overheads and configuration costs.
Contactless payment technology also promotes cashless transactions on the move, without the need for a register or a fixed card reader. Contactless is likely to become more and more prominent as the likes of PayPal develop smartphone apps which they hope one day will challenge cards.
Finally, there are the possibilities opened up by RFID scanning technology. Mobile handheld readers have been around for some time now, but increasingly these are becoming available as apps for smartphones and tablets. Integrated with POS devices, this again further promotes ease of mobile sales, offering a quick and convenient way to scan an item for checkout on the move, and linking directly to stock control.
Long term, we may even see a move towards consumer scanning hosted within a dedicated store app, similar to the system trialled by Amazon, replacing supermarket self-service checkouts with the option to self-scan items on a phone.
The Future, Now
A world where Amazon’s model of automated product scanning and no checkouts takes off may seem far-fetched for now. But the technology to deliver flexible, responsive mobile POS is already here.
This year, AURES launches SWING, the first fully mobile terminal capable of meeting the needs of omni-channel, point-of-sale and point-of-service environments worldwide. SWING is currently the only POS tablet that provides direct, permanent connection to all peripherals and smartphones, even when in mobile use.
With a range of mounting options provided by the AURES POGO magnetic attachment and connection module system and six product configurations to meet the widest spectrum of needs, SWING is designed and built to offer the greatest possible flexibility. The guiding principle is, wherever the customer is, the POS can be there to assist with service and payment transactions.