This blog was written by an independent guest blogger.
In Part 1 of this series, we covered the first step to better cybersecurity in touchless business solutions, which is to practice extra caution in cashless payment solutions.
We continue by discussing the second step to improve cybersecurity for touchless systems, which is to increase protocols for cybersecurity and data privacy.
Heighten cybersecurity and data protection protocols
Amazon launched Amazon Go in 2016, a connected grocery store that promises no lines, no check-outs, and no registers. It uses what Amazon calls a “Just Walk Out” technology that integrates computer vision, deep learning algorithms, and sensor fusion, just like the technology in self-driving cars. Shoppers can just walk into an Amazon Go store, check-in through the Amazon Go app on their phones, and shop. They can automatically check out by picking items off the shelf. The multiple sensors within the store record items the customer has taken out. The customer gets charged on their account with the store items through the app.
In China, Jack Ma’s Alibaba has opened around 65 locations for its Hema Store that utilise robotic technology, online payment apps, and overhead conveyor belts to revolutionise shoppers’ experience. It’s a great mix of online and offline shopping, where customers physically go to a store, browse items they want to buy, and then scan products with their Alibaba app to get more product details or add the product to cart. Consumers can also choose to have the products delivered right to their homes, even within the next 30 minutes.
Xenia and Aurus also aim to put the power of the POS (point of sale) in the pocket of their guests. They offer cashierless technology that provides a seamless shopping experience in furniture retail. In its app, you will see product details, purchase history, peer reviews, and other recommended items, and other additional information useful for guests. The consumer can start a cart from home, seamlessly shift to the offline store, and end the transaction through the instant cart to “paystation” transfers.
Caper introduces self-directed check-out with their AI-powered shopping carts with image recognition and sensor fusion. These “Smart Carts” were launched in a couple of groceries in New York City in 2019. Instead of installing hardware and retrofitting the entire store, which not all businesses would be able to implement immediately, Caper works with simple software integration so shoppers can scan, pay, and go. Carts are connected to the store’s central POS system and can scan the grocery item barcode with no app download necessary. The system can interact with customers by providing a store map, item locator, recommend items on sale, and inform customers of any promotion or deals to avail of. A shopper can pay directly on the cart with either their debit/credit card or through mobile payment for a complete cashierless, self-check-out system.
This concept may be more viable for small to medium scale grocery owners who can opt for a few smart carts at a time.
Risks in cashierless operations
Consumer data at risk
Amazon has a significant advantage when it comes to data in setting up their Amazon Go stores. Using deep learning, Amazon can compile a list of highly purchased items in their online store and make it available in a specific locality. Every time you also shop, whether online or in an Amazon Go store, your buying preferences and consumer habits (even the length of time you perused certain items) are recorded for future reference. Some experts see this as a very invasive, privacy-eroding strategy in collecting data on consumer habits.
Some experts are also baffled why Amazon, who dominates with nearly 50% of the eCommerce industry, would want to open a brick-and-mortar store. Despite the backlash, Cashierless stores such as Amazon Go befit well into what our “new normal” will look like in a few months. Amazon is launching 3,000 Amazon Go stores by 2021. Alibaba’s Hema stores are also set to be available in every major city in China. Touchless technologies will continue to emerge to serve the growing demand for social distancing modes of retail.
Potential for Hacking
Amazon has amassed tons of data through their line of products—Prime, Kindle, Fire TV, Twitch, Amazon Web Services or AWS-hosted platforms, and the infamous Alexa. Amazon Go addition to this fleet of data collection channels makes Amazon a bigger target for hackers. Whether Amazon will monetise user data in the future is something that experts are not yet sure of, but it can be a possibility. The potential for hacking within their systems and breaching that massive wealth of consumer data is also another troubling possibility.
How we can stay protected
It lies now on how robust the security system Amazon and other similar companies set in place to prevent a data breach of any sort. Other related companies that gather consumer data must invest in and prioritise on cybersecurity and data protection as they continue to develop technologies in response to current global needs.
For individual consumers, practice online hygiene by minimising your digital footprint. Do not just give your sensitive information everywhere, especially to entities that will not be accountable to you regarding the use of your data. Manage your subscriptions strictly and have a separate credential for banking and eCommerce transactions different from the ones you use for browsing, online subscriptions, and social media. Set physical measures like complicated passwords changed routinely and two-step verification. These are simple measures you can layer up to strengthen your cybersecurity and data protection.
Get comprehensive security software that can protect you, your devices, and your data from malware attacks and data breach. But online shopping and banking of any sort without the proper protection is like going to war without any weapon or armour. And in our digital world, the more we automate—such as a cashierless environment—the more we are also susceptible to digital attacks if we do not upgrade our security systems.