It's a potential model for the supermarket of the future with no human cashiers in sight.
The Middle East got its first completely automated store this week as retail giant Carrefour rolled out its vision for the future of the industry in a mini-market located in the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai.
The store is just like Amazon's breakthrough unmanned grocery stores known as Amazon Go that opened in 2018. It looks like any ordinary convenience store and is chocked full of sodas and snacks, but it has no human employees with which shoppers can interact or ask questions.
Hidden among the familiar fare lies a sophisticated system that tracks shoppers' movements, eliminating the checkout line and allowing people to grab and scan products. Only those with the store's smartphone app may enter. Nearly a hundred small surveillance cameras blanket the ceiling. Countless sensors line the shelves.
Five minutes after shoppers leave, their phones ping with receipts for whatever they walked out of the store with.
"This is how the future will look," said Hani Weiss, CEO of retail at Majid Al Futtaim, the franchise that operates Carrefour in the Middle East. "We do believe in physical stores in the future. However, we believe the experience will change."
The experimental shop, called Carrefour City+, is the latest addition to the burgeoning field of retail automation. Major retailers worldwide are combining machine learning software and artificial intelligence in a push to cut labor costs, do away with the irritation of long lines, and gather critical data about shopping behavior.
"We use (the data) to provide a better experience in the future ... whereby customers don't have to think about the next products they want," Weiss said. "All the insights are being utilized internally in order to provide a better shopping experience."
Customers must give Carrefour permission to collect their information, and the company promises not to share it. However, the idea of a retailer collecting data about shoppers' habits has already raised red flags over privacy concerns in the U.S.
The experimental shop is the latest in the growing field of automated retail stores, which retailers around the world are using to get rid of long lines and gather information about consumer shopping behavior.
But Weiss stressed that human workers, at least in the short-term, would still be needed to "support customers" and assist the machines.
"There is no future without humans," he said.