June 21, 2024
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fully automated retail stores

Uranus in Taurus: Fully Automated Retail Stores and Groceries

Uranus in Taurus began in December of 2019 and will last until July 2025. The last time Uranus was in Taurus was 1934 to 1942. It is easy to identify these years as the time of the Great Depression and the beginning of World War II, and those events can certainly reflect Uranus in Taurus. But, more interestingly, Uranus in Taurus represents breakthroughs in technology and social norms that revolutionize everyday life. This article will look at the current and possible impact of automated retail stores and groceries.

Uranus in Taurus

Each point in the sky rules a specific sign; when that point is in that sign, its energy is strongest, and its effects last the longest. When the point is in a different sign than its rulership, especially a sign that is also very different in terms of element and expression, the impacts occur in the areas of life ruled by that sign. With Uranus in Taurus, the point and the sign could not be more opposite, so the impacts can be very noticeable.

Uranus brings breakthroughs, shocks, and revolution. Taurus conserves, supports traditions, and prefers for things to “stay the way they are”. So, you can imagine that this transit is likely to impact the fundamentals in life (Taurus) in revolutionary ways (Uranus) while it moves through the sign from 2019 to 2025. Amazon is leading the charge for fully automated checkout, with no cashiers or personnel in the store for the majority of the time. They have set up Amazon Go Groceries in 26 locations since 2016.

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History Repeats

It is interesting to study astrology over the course of human history and see how the patterns cycle through, especially when seen through the lens of the outer planets Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. In the case of Uranus, the cycle happens every 84 years for an 8-year span. In the case of Neptune, the cycle happens every 165 years for about a 14-year span. And Pluto returns to a sign every 247 years for anywhere from 17 to 31 years.

Therefore, it is not surprising that, as an aspect of American history, the period between 1935 and 1942, and the years soon after, when Uranus entered Gemini, would be one of astounding breakthroughs in technology and societal norms. Let’s just consider a few profound examples: rocket power for planes, with the development of the Heinkel He 176 in 1939; the discovery and use of nuclear fission (1938), which lead to the development of the atomic bomb; and women entering the workforce in support of the war (1940 to 1945). Each of these, and many more, fundamentally redefined reality (Taurus) in shocking ways (Uranus).

Self-checking out technology has been around since the early 1990s, developed extensively in the first decade and half of the 21st Century, and are now common in almost all major retailers, like grocery store chains and Walmart and Target. But the idea of a fully automated store is still in its infancy.

The Future is Contactless Check Out

Thanks to the pandemic, grocery store chains have been looking more aggressively into contactless ways to make payments. According to a CNBC article:

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Grocery chain Giant Eagle turned one of its stores into a checkout-less shopping experience. A handful of Price Chopper stores in Missouri are offering shoppers access to an app that can scan items and tally up their order, allowing them to skip the checkout line. Wegmans piloted a self-checkout app at three stores prior to the pandemic but rolled it out to 80 of its 103 stores this spring, as customers sought out contactless shopping.

Amazon Go stores employ what Amazon calls “walk out technology”, allowing the customer to come in, gather their items, and walk out without interacting with a cashier or a self-checkout kiosk. A customer gets an Amazon account, which will power and define the experience. Essentially, it works like this:

The Amazon Go app for iOS and Android links to their Amazon account and is the primary method of paying for items at the store, alongside cash at certain locations. The app is required to enter the store, which has turnstiles that scan a QR code generated on the app. The app allows users to add others to their Amazon account, so a family’s purchases can be charged to the same bill. The ceiling of the store has multiple cameras and store shelves have weight sensors, to detect which item(s) a customer took. If a customer takes an item off the shelf, it will be added to the customer’s virtual cart. Similarly, if a customer places an item back on the shelf, it is removed from the customer’s virtual cart.

How well this technology can be utilized and trusted is still being tested; there remain too many ways to “break the system”, but it certainly appears to be another breakthrough approach that could become part of a new normal. This kind of confluence of technology breakthroughs that “tip the scale” are just the kind of advances one can expect with Uranus in Taurus.

A Solution to Mundane Work and Employee Cost

A shift to greater to contactless payment, which could eliminate or reduce significantly the number of people employed to run a store would create a shift away from the repetitive, mundane work that is remarkably dissatisfying for those employed in the industry. Also, companies could save significant amounts of money by avoiding the expense of health care, as well as the constant struggles with hiring/firing, missed work due to illness, planned vacation days, and so many other costs of human labor. This model would also reduce or eliminate angry interactions between the customer and clerk!

Uranus is constantly doing breakthrough work, but what makes a breakthrough special in an earth sign is what “sticks” and becomes part of the real world. In Taurus, we want to pay attention to the ones that could really change the foundation, and eliminating a significant amount of human interaction in the retail process could be one such breakthrough. Thanks to the pandemic, this slowly emerging trend (between 2000 and 2019) has accelerated tremendously.

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The challenge for a new technology to displace an older, established one is to outmaneuver the older technology in terms of cost, efficiency, and consistency. Fully automated checkout is certainly a goal that companies would like to attain, and the problem is not the same as one form of energy displacing another more established form (like an electric car market trying to overtake the fossil fuel car market). This problem is more about making sure the technology can handle the process without breaking easily or allowing for abuse.

From RetailWire:

Scott Wu, chief technology officer of Compass Digital Labs, which has been piloting cashierless checkouts in the hospitality space, recently told Bloomberg, “When the technology is mature, and the price is at a point where it’s scalable, it will be everywhere.”