Amazon Launches Part Finder Image Search

Customers will be able to take a picture of a fastener, and Amazon will identify and send it.

Online retail giant Amazon is rolling out a new smartphone app called Part Finder, which will allow users to order small parts such as screws, nuts, bolts and other fasteners without a trip to the hardware store. The computer-vision technology behind the new app can identify more than 100 types of fasteners and will allow Amazon to tap into a market that had eluded it.

Here’s how it works: Say a do-it-yourselfer finds himself short a small part on a project. Rather than making a trip to the local hardware store, he simply takes a picture of an identical part, placing it next to a penny for scale, and sends it to Amazon through the company’s mobile phone app. From there, he is directed to a parts catalog where he can order the part for delivery.

The feature is designed to help the retailer compete with big-box stores like Home Depot and Lowes, who, along with smaller hardware stores, dominate the DIY market.

For now, the scope of the Part Finder is limited, but it’s not difficult to imagine a future where the technology could be employed to help Amazon siphon off business from retailers across the spectrum, including pool and spa stores.

Imagine a customer being able to take a picture of a pump seal, or a spa pack, and have Amazon send the part the next day.

We’re a long way off from this affecting our industry directly, but Amazon’s appetite for new markets to conquer shows no signs of slowing.

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