Business / Tech

Lawson shows off experimental automated convenience store

Kyodo

Lawson Inc. unveiled for the media Tuesday an experimental checkout-free convenience store that will allow customers to make purchases using a smartphone app.

The “grab and go” shop is part of the major chain’s attempts to address Japan’s labor shortage. Advanced technology allows customers to pay for items just by picking them up and leave the store without the need to line up at a cash register.

The experimental store is located in a Fujitsu Ltd. office building in Kawasaki. It will open exclusively for Fujitsu employees on Feb. 26.

Lawson said it will assess operational issues, including logistics and sales fluctuations, at the store until the end of May before opening a similar store for the general public this summer.

Customers will need to download the app ahead of time. To enter the shop, a QR code displayed on the app must be scanned.

The customer’s location within the store will be monitored constantly through 28 cameras, while products are identified using both the position of the customer’s extended hand and weight sensors on shelves, according to the convenience store chain.

A receipt is sent to the app a few minutes after the customer leaves the store.

A biometric authentication device combining palm vein and facial recognition developed by Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. will be installed at the entry gate March 16. That system will allow customers to shop even without a smartphone.

Although human employees will be needed to restock shelves, the elimination of staff for operating checkout registers will help to address the labor shortage, Lawson said.

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