The following is a repost of something I wrote about 10 years ago in 2005. Still relevant today!
You heard it here first! I’ve got this idea for a RFID/GPS shopping cart. So, here it is..
So, this is for a shopping cart to be used in a supermarket, but it can be adapted for other uses. But I’m going to explain my idea in the context of a supermarket.
First the simple specs. The cart has RFID readers on the edges so anything dropped into the card can be read. Secondly the cart will have some type of way to determine it’s position in the store. I say GPS, but obviously that won’t work since the cart will be used indoors. thirdly the cart will be able to connect to a central server in the store with some networking protocol (I guess TCP/IP over wireless can work). Lastly on the cart is a touchscreen LCD mounted in the child basket.
Ok, so why do we need all this? Simple.. to make shopping fucking cool as hell AND to make more money for the store.
Here’s my vision:
You’ve just moved from San Francisco to New York and you need to go to the supermarket. When you were in SF you used the Supercart service and you hope that there is a supermarket here that has it.
You log on to the Supercart website. Since you’ve used the site before you’ve got your shopping lists already entered into the system. If you were a new user, you would be able to set up any number of shopping lists online using either the highly intuative and simple visual list entry system (photos of each item along with text details) or the ‘pro’ entry system which allows you to upload your list as an excel file or text list.
You are able to have multiple shopping lists stored in the system and they are stackable. For instance, you may have one that is your “basics” list that is stuff you buy every time you go to the market, then perhaps you have a few others that are for specific meals you like to eat. When you decide to use a list, you can have something like “basics + beef fajita + seafood salad + 2 apples + 1lb spaghetti” (with the apples and spaghetti added a la carte)
(note, the Supercart website has a bunch more functionality, but it’s not germane to our conversation here)
So, you logged on to the site, chosen/editied/created your shopping list and are ready to go to the store. (There is a link on the site that would check for home delivery services, but you don’t need the extra charge today to have something hand complied and delivered). You click on ‘Find a new Supercart store’, put in your zipcode, and up pops a list of stores in your area. Also noted on the list is the percentage of your list that is available at the stores. You pick the closest one with 100% of your items and off you go to the store.
You get to the store and find a Supercart. You push the cart into the store and as you are entering, you place your key tag under the scanner on the cart and it immediately recognizes you. On the screen pops your shopping list. Neat huh? Well, it gets better.
Since the cart knows where it is, it can tell you the best way to collect your items. It plans a path for you and guides you through the store on its small LCD screen. (note, the cart could be configured to walk a user past certain aisles or special displays, etc. but that’s up to the store owner).
When you encounter the item on your list, you simply drop it in your cart. The RFID reader recognizes the item and checks it off your list, or adds it to your list as an ‘extra item’. If you chose something close to an item on your list, the cart alerts you that you may have chosen the wrong item. There is also a running total so you know how much you are spending.
The cart, is smart however and it can help you shop. If you are a frequent user of this store (have a shoppers card, etc.) the cart will know this and can alert you to items that are similar to ones on your list that are on sale. Since it knows where it is, it can also point you to the similar items along the way.
Ads can also be included for special items. The applications are endless.
So, how does this help the store? It adds goodwill, its an enhanced experience and users will more likely support a store that has carts than one that doesn’t. It also allows the store the opportunity to directly target sales. It’s like you handed your list to the manager and he personally is walking you through the store saying “I know you like Barilla pasta but our store pasta is freshly made.. why don’t you try it? I’ll give you a dollar off”, etc.
How does this help the shopper? Are you kidding me? If you can’t see that, you have no reason for living… seriously , it’s faster, more accurate, more efficient and just kicks ass!
So, yea.. if you are a supermarket or software company and you want to use the idea, feel free.. kindly offer me a job along the way if you could.. There is a lot more in my head here..