Amazon wants to kill barcodes with AI

Maxence Glineur

December 12, 2022 at 9:15 a.m.


Amazon employee © Frederic Legrand - COMEO /

© Frederic Legrand – COMEO /

The e-commerce leader wants to speed up the sending of parcels by developing a brand new algorithm capable of identifying products without using the famous successions of lines present on all our consumer products.

The invention of the barcode is one of the cornerstones of our consumer society. However, this technology democratized in the 1970s seems too old for Amazon’s warehouse robots. They are not very good at handling the codes affixed to products with unusual and overly complex shapes.

Robots capable of identifying without barcodes…

Fueled by an extensive library of product photos and features, the algorithm uses a system of cameras that monitor Amazon’s warehouse conveyor belts. Their goal is to ensure that objects match their photos while constantly training the system. Eventually, the latter should be associated with robots capable of identifying items by picking them up and returning them.

Solving this problem, so that robots can pick up items and process them without needing to find and scan a barcode, is fundamental said Nontas Antonakos, an Amazon official in charge of the project. Currently implemented in facilities in Barcelona and Hamburg, the system has already been able to speed up parcel processing times in these cities.

… to solve a fairly infrequent problem

The project encountered its first failures during Prime Days with… the Echo Dots. Indeed, he was unable to discern the color of the items ordered. Having identical packaging, their only difference was the presence of a small dot either blue or gray on the packaging. Since then, the identification system can assign confidence ratings to its assessments, which allows it to improve its accuracy rate. Amazon says it is now 99%.

According to the company, this system solves a problem that does not happen very often, namely sending incorrect items to customers. But, given the number of items processed in a single day by each warehouse in the firm, even the most infrequent errors lead to significant slowdowns. This technology should soon be exported to the company’s subsidiaries, such as Whole Foods or any of its chains with stores and boutiques. So perhaps we will soon see, for the first time in decades, consumer products without barcodes.

Source : CNET

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