The Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) has launched a new convenience store at its Bruce campus – but there’s something different about it.
CIT is the first educational institution in the Southern Hemisphere to use Amazon’s ”Just Walk Out” technology, which allows shoppers to buy what they need without having to wait in line to pay.
At the new YalaPlus store, students enter by scanning their credit card or mobile wallet at the entry gate. Then, Just Walk Out detects what they have taken from the shelves and creates a ”virtual shopping session”. If they decide not to buy something and put it back on the shelf, it will be detected and removed from their virtual cart.
When they’re finished, students can leave the store without having to queue to pay, and their card is charged for what they have taken.
For CIT students balancing work, study and other commitments, this means they can grab something to eat and drink no matter what time of day. The new store also benefits the 48 students who live on the Bruce campus as they do not have easy access to nearby shopping.
“A number of months ago now, our student association identified that there are more things we can do to help with the students’ experience here on campus,” CIT Student Association CEO Andrew Scotford said.
“Students have fantastic teachers, they have fantastic facilities, but part of their journey as a student is also about their ability to refresh and access products when they need to.
“It’s also about trying to reduce lines that might occur, it’s about increasing choice. We also struggled to get staff post-COVID lockdowns to service what used to be a coffee cart service that was on this end of the campus.
“So we had all these things that were contributing to an opportunity for us to improve the student experience, and by association the experience for staff and CIT visitors to the campus.”
Mr Scotford said the new store was only the beginning, with CIT planning to open two more in Fyshwick and Bruce in early 2024.
“It’s not finished, this is just a stop on the journey,” he said.
Simon Elisha, chief technologist for Australia, New Zealand and Oceania at Amazon Web Services, said it was a long journey to perfecting the Just Walk Out technology, which was now in 200 locations around the world.
“The technology behind this was really hard; we started eight years ago on this journey,” he said.
“It uses a combination of computer vision, generative AI, sensor fusion and machine learning.
“At Amazon, we believe generative AI is going to touch just about every customer experience over the fullness of time.”
Mr Elisha said generative AI was used to train millions of varying scenarios and store formats, locations, crowds and lighting to provide the most accurate service possible.
“We’re seeking to elevate the customer experience, provide a seamless experience, so that students can reduce the amount of stress they have, the amount of time they need to spend on shopping, so they can focus on the things that matter,” he said.