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Swedish store uses smartphones instead of cashiers

Ilijason lives in the small Swedish town of Viken.The experience gave him the idea of opening a 24-hour convenience store with no cashiers but only a smartphone: Customers simply use their cellphones to unlock the door with a swipe of the finger and scan their purchases. All they need to do is to register for the service and download an app. They get charged for their purchases in a monthly invoice.

The shop only stocks basics such as milk, sugar, canned food, diapers and other products you would expect to find in a convenience store. Presumably, this includes baby food. However, alcohol cannot be sold in convenience stores in Sweden. It does not have tobacco or medical drugs either. Ilijason is surprised that no one appears to have thought of such an enterprise before. He hopes to start the same type of store in other small towns and villages in Sweden. He believes that small convenience stores can return to the countryside if they do not have the expense of hiring cashiers.

Ilijason has to receive deliveries and stock products on the shelves but that is all. The customers with their cellphones do the rest. The shop has several surveillance cameras to discourage theft in the 480 square foot store. If the front door stays open for longer than eight seconds or if someone tries to pry it open he receives a text message. Ilijason lives nearby. So far since opening in January he has had no attempted thefts.

Viken is a town of just over 4,000 people. One problem the store has is that older people do not understand the technology. Tuve Nilsson, 75, welcomed the new store, noting that there were many more shops in the town when he moved there back in 1976 and said it could be could be a convenience for elderly people living alone: “But if they can manage this (technology), I don’t know. Sometimes I don’t understand it.”

Ilijason is considering other ways of opening the door such as a credit card reader that some banks use. Some supermarkets already have scanning machines that you can use instead of a cashier. Ilijason may hire someone to work in the store a few hours each day to help people who don’t understand or are not comfortable with modern technology. Raymond Arvidsson, a friend of Ilijason loved the speed of shopping. He said he was able to do his shopping within a minute with no queues.

Robots are taking over many jobs, so it is hardly surprising that now smartphones are also joining the competition to displace humans. It all depends on the economics of the situation however. When Atlantic writer Adam Davidson visited Standard Motor Products’ fuel-injector assembly line in South Carolina, he wondered why a worker, Maddie, was welding the caps onto the injectors. Maddie’s supervisor, Tony, had a direct answer:”Maddie is cheaper than a machine.” Maddie makes less in two years than a $100,000 machine would cost.

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Sweden has quickly adapted to making mobile payments. WyWallet, one Swedish payment service, had 1.2 million users in 2014 and about 20 percent of the population that uses smartphones.

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