A day after Amazon announced it would jump head-long into the bricks-and-mortar grocery business by agreeing to buy Whole Foods Market for $13.4 billion, reports from earlier this week about a new patent issued to the company are starting to make more sense. The patent, which was first reported by the Verge, is for wireless technology that can effectively block customers in Whole Food’s retail locations from “showrooming." "Showrooming" is the practice of using retail locations to test out products before buying them online - a practice that Amazon, by making it easy to comparison shop on a smartphone, helped pioneer.
In its report, the Verge focuses on how the technology will help the company solve a problem that Amazon itself helped create – a problem that has plagued virtually every other traditional retailer.
"Systems and methods for controlling online shopping within a physical store or retailer location are provided. A wireless network connection may be provided to a consumer device at a retailer location on behalf of a retailer, and content requested by the consumer device via the wireless network connection may be identified. Based upon an evaluation of the identified content, a determination may be made that the consumer device is attempting to access information associated with a competitor of the retailer or an item offered for sale by the retailer. At least one control action may then be directed based upon the determination.”
But the technology described in the patent also raises serious concerns about the company’s plans for vastly expanding its capacity to collect and store customers' data. As MarketWatch’s Theresa Poletti reports, with this added capability, Amazon may soon be gathering as much data on its consumers now as Alphabet’s Google Inc.
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