Grocery Shopping Goes High-tech
by Jim Ritter, Staff Reporter Advertisement, Chicago Sun Times, Chicago, IL
Wouldn't it be great to go grocery shopping and for once not have to chase down a clerk to find out where they put the chili powder and anchovy paste?
Well, several companies are developing “intelligent shopping carts” that could help you find stuff. You would write up your shopping list on your home computer, and a computer screen attached to your cart would tell you where each item is found.
There are other features. For example, you could place a deli order from your cart, and the computer screen would alert you when it’s ready.
A few stores have begun testing intelligent carts, or plan to begin testing soon. These smart carts “will be everywhere,” said Michael Alexandor of Springboard Retail Networks Inc. “The question is how quickly they will roll out.
Springboard is displaying its Concierge smart cart this week at the Food Marketing Institute trade show at McCormick Place.
Concierge is an 8.5-inch computer screen that attaches to the handle of the cart, leaving enough room for a child to sit in the toddler’s seat. The store gives you an electronic key, which you plug in to the cart’s computer to activate Concierge. (When not in use, the key is small enough to fit on a keychain.) The key signals your identity, your grocery list and your shopping habits.
As you walk down an aisle, the screen displays items from your shopping list located in that aisle. When you scan an item on the cart’s scanner, the computer takes the item off your shopping list. The computer also keeps a running tab of how much you’re spending. And for any given product, you can call up detailed nutritional information and recipe ideas.
Free for shoppers ?The intelligent cart acts like a personal shopping assistant. Say you always buy roast coffee and cream, but this week you forget the cream. Concierge will remind you about the cream -- and point out a new flavored cream product with a dollar-off coupon.
Concierge will be free to consumers, and advertising revenue is expected to pay the costs. Concierge also can deliver personalized ads. If broccoli is on your list, and Concierge remembers you buy free-range eggs and recyclable products, the computer might suggest you check out the store’s new line of organic vegetables.