Technology 3 min read

All Japanese Convenience Stores to be Automated by 2025

With the digitization over 50,000 Japanese convenience stores, aging Japan could help to defuse its growing labor force crisis.

With this automation, you can finally by your 5 AM big gulp in peace. ¦ Lerner Vadim / Shutterstock

With this automation, you can finally by your 5 AM big gulp in peace. ¦ Lerner Vadim / Shutterstock

Japan is home to the oldest population in the world.

The rapid aging of the Japanese population and the subsequent workforce decline is slowing down Japan’s economy.

This decrease is all the more significant as Japan has a very limited migratory balance and a relative social consensus on the refusal of labor immigration.

While other aging populations, like Germany, bet on foreign workers, this isn’t an option in Japan because some think mass immigration might hurt the society in the long run.

The conservative views on foreign labors and immigration in Japan are changing, but Japan is looking for a fast remedy.

Japan has opted for automation to compensate for its aging population and tackle the demographic challenge.

Now all-in on new tech, Japan is leveraging the power of AI, robots, and Blockchain.

Read More: Japan’s Cashless Vision is Slowly Taking Form

Automated “Konbini” for Aging Japan

Driverless taxis is one way to address labor shortage. But Japan, known for its obsession with robots, wants to go further in its digitization strategy.

Everywhere you turn your head in Japan, chances are you’ll find a convenience store nearby. Or, as the Japanese call them: konbini.

There are over 50,000 konbini open 24/7, mainly run by convenience store chains like Seven Eleven, Lawson, and FamilyMart.

Japanese convenience stores sell mainly food and beverages, tickets for cultural and sport events, and a wide variety of consumer products.

Japanese convenience stores are one of the sectors where the lack of personnel is felt most.

Read More: Japan’s Cashless Vision is Slowly Taking Form

Convenience stores are, well, convenient for robots. And, it happens that Japan loves both.

Cashier-less, fully-automated convenience stores are the main solution that the Japanese government believes could solve the workforce crisis in the nation’s retail sector.

In its plan to promote automation in the retail sector, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) urges for the use of RFID technology (Radio-Frequency Identification).

Upon an agreement with METI, Japan’s big five Japanese convenience stores — Seven-Eleven Japan, FamilyMart, Lawson, Ministop and New Days — would introduce electronic tags for efficient tracking and monitoring of products by 2025.

RFID tags will help companies achieve “individual-item monitoring for every product”, improve their overall operational efficiency, and prepare for the Internet of Things.

There is, however, a safety concern with RFID tags for food. If the consumer doesn’t remove the tag from the packaging before microwaving, the metal component in the tag risks sparking. But microwaveable RFID tags, like the solution recently proposed by Avery Dennison, solve this issue.

https://youtu.be/2VT0kAZCm2Y?t=7

The automation of convenience and retail stores is not something exclusive to Japan, but it could be a major boost for an economy that is in dire need of rejuvenation.

As with many major workforce changes, there may be unforeseen issues with this solution down the road. But, in the meantime, it is an exciting development which many other nations would benefit from paying attention to.

Read More: Japan to Create an Artificial Meteor Shower by 2020

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

Comments (4)
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    John Usrey March 29 at 6:47 am GMT

    Japan would be the land of the rising robots.

    • Profile Image
      Anthony Crosier April 10 at 9:48 am GMT

      Definitely, the country’s obsession with automation and its people ethical value make this possible. Using robots and the automated store are an excellent solution for the shrinking number of their population.

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        John Usrey April 15 at 10:27 am GMT

        Automation is a fast solution but might have certain drawbacks. Since the radio chips attached as a tracker

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          John Usrey April 15 at 10:30 am GMT

          is a high end, can we consider RFID as an invasive technology?

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