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How Amazon Aims to Disrupt Grocery Again

Company reportedly developing a 'smart' refrigerator
Gina Acosta, Progressive Grocer
How Amazon Aims to Disrupt Grocery Again
The same team developing the smart fridge also developed the Amazon One palm-reading payment system.

Amazon is reportedly working on a smart refrigerator that would use the same cashierless technology employed in the company's grocery stores.

According to Business Insider, Amazon is developing a refrigerator that can automatically scan for low-stock items or expiring products and make refill orders — using some of the computer-vision technology found in Amazon's cashierless stores.

According to Insider, Amazon's physical-stores unit, which created the Just Walk Out (JWO) technology in stores, is leading the fridge project. This team is responsible for other products found in Amazon stores such as the smart shopping cart called the Dash Cart and the Amazon One palm-reading payment system. Other segments, such as Amazon's Fresh grocery team and the Lab126 hardware unit, are also involved, according to Insider.

The new fridge, internally code-named Project Pulse, is designed to track inventory and purchase habits, predict grocery needs, and arrange for delivery. The system will be able to automatically notify consumers if certain repeat-purchase products, like eggs, are close to running out or nearing their expiration dates. It could also make ordering those products easier through Amazon Fresh or Whole Foods, according to Insider.

Other ideas being discussed include recipe suggestions, in case a product like salmon has been sitting in the fridge for a week and needs to be cooked soon, and health and nutrition advice, Insider reported.

The news comes a month after the company announced it is rolling out JWO tech at two Whole Foods Market stores. Located in Washington, D.C.’s Glover Park neighborhood and Sherman Oaks, Calif., the stores are expected to open within the next year. The stores will offer JWO cashierless checkout lanes and self-checkout lanes but not traditional checkout lanes. Shoppers who want to check out with a Whole Foods Market Team Member will need to check out at the Customer Service desk.

Amazon acquired Whole Foods Market in 2017. The company opened its first traditional grocery banner, Amazon Fresh, last year. There are now 18 Amazon Fresh locations across the country (and many more under construction) as Amazon paints a clear picture of what it sees as the future of grocery shopping. 

Seattle-based Amazon is No. 2 on Progressive Grocer’s 2021 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods is No. 26 on PG's list.

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