Futuristic Shopping

Year 1996.
I buy my books from a catalog. I place my orders through the mail. Then wait for a month for my orders to arrive. Afterwards I send a postal money order through the post office to pay for the books.

Year 2007.
I click and pay. The books get delivered the day after.

Ahh, the wonders of today’s shopping. It’s one of the reasons why I love the internet. It has made shopping more convenient than one can imagine. I’ve ordered everything from books to furniture to clothes via online shopping.

Who knows how everything would change ten years hence? If there’s one thing that I wish I can skip on weekends because it’s too time-consuming, it’s doing my groceries. Sigh. Not to mention the effort it takes to drive to the grocery store, pick the items off the shelf, bring the stuff to the cashier to pay, then haul everything back home. I’ve tried ordering by catalog before, but unfortunately found out that I couldn’t buy everything I want, so I still ended up going to the grocery store just to buy them.

We always do our groceries on weekends. For a family of four (including my wicked sister who’s staying with us), on average we haul four or five bags heavy with groceries every time. I shudder to think of how many more bags would be needed, or how many times one has to go to the groceries to refill, for a much bigger family.

I’ve heard that the futuristic shopping would involve RFID tags on consumer items, and one would simply have to breeze through scanners unlike the conventional and time-consuming checking out at the cashier. Here is an example of how doing your groceries in the future would be like:

Wincor Nixdorf uses a grocery store to demonstrate how today’s — for the most part anonymous — grocery shopping can be developed into an individual and interactive process between retailer and customer. At the store’s reception terminal, an employee greets the customer — but if the terminal is unoccupied, customers can also use the 180-degree rotatable multimedia terminal, which is built into the reception desk, to gather information and receive offers from a virtual consultant. Alternatively, they can use the terminal for personal contact with a special back-office employee via video conferencing.

The customer then takes a shopping cart fitted with a PSA (Personal Shopping Assistant). Wincor Nixdorf is presenting the first cart with a PSA that is permanently mounted on the cart. Customers identify themselves at these PSAs using their customer cards, and the system then guides them through the store, submits personalized offers to them, and can be used to scan their purchases directly.

Products kept in coolers and refrigerated displays feature RFID chips attached to the packaging. Electronic shelf displays automatically present important additional information on products and, for example, recommend suitable wines. If the customer presses a button on the PSA, the precise bottle of wine recommended to accompany a product will be lit up from behind so that it can be located immediately. To find out more about the wine, the customer removes the bottle from the intelligent wine shelf and the display on the shelf shows all the useful information on the product.

Read the rest of the article here.

How about it? A personalized shopping experience at the grocery! 😀

Here is also something which has been implemented in a place much closer to home, Tokyo:

The Tokyo Ubiquitous Network Project seeks to install RFID, infrared and wireless transmitters throughout Tokyo’s Ginza area, which is the most famous shopping area in the capital. The tags and transmitters will provide location-related information to people carrying prototype readers developed for the trial, said Ken Sakamura, a professor at the University of Tokyo and the leader of the project.

The system works by matching a unique code sent out by each beacon with data stored on a server on the Internet. The data is obtained automatically by the terminal, which communicates back to the server via a wireless LAN connection and requests the data relevant to the beacon that is being picked up.

Sakamura envisions that the system will be able to provide users with basic navigation and information about the shops and stores in the area in at least four languages: Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean.

For example, bringing the terminal close to an RFID tag on a street lamp will pinpoint the user’s location and enable the system to guide the user to the nearest railway station; walking past a radio beacon in front of a shop might bring up details of current special offers or a menu for a restaurant.

Read the full article here.

If this trial becomes successful, who knows, maybe RFID tags in grocery stores will be around sooner than we think. :) Anyway, the article is about 5 months old, maybe there’s an update somewhere that I don’t yet know about.

Incidentally, my brother-in-law, who is visiting Japan for the first time, was surprised by the mouthful he got from the cashier as he was checking out the items at the grocery store nearby. He asked me, “Ano ba yung pinagsasabi nila?” (What are they saying?) I explained to him: here in Japan, some (or most?) cashier personnels are required to read aloud the prices which appear on the monitor right after the product is scanned. I really wondered about this myself. Isn’t it enough that you can already see for yourself the price on the monitor? For a foreigner who doesn’t speak Japanese at all, it would all seem like wasted effort because he or she wouldn’t understand a thing anyway. How do you describe it? Like white noise. You don’t understand a thing and it just hurts the ears to listen. 😛 I don’t know either that the buyer could benefit in any way from this, unless of course if he or she is blind or couldn’t read at all.

Quite recently, I’ve also come across a self-service cash register machine at a store. There was one store clerk keeping watch at all four self-service counters. The machines come equipped with a weight-sensing device which apparently verifies the weight of the product that is scanned to the one placed inside the shopping bag. Of course, not all stuffs can be placed in the bag (like the rolls of tissue), though, and there is a button you can press to “skip bagging.” It was rather fun to do the scanning myself, although admittedly it probably took longer than if I had gone through a manned cashier. Much to my dismay, the machine also “read” out loud the prices of each item and prompted me each time to put the item in the bag. Perfect. A robotic voice that is just as irritating.

Can we do away with the voice announcement please? Imagine everyone hearing about the price of each and every item you purchased!

It’s not perfect yet, but it’s a welcome change to futuristic shopping. Here’s to the future!

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41 Responses to Futuristic Shopping

  1. dimaks says:

    maybe they can add a headphone with those loud talking machines :)

    in the atm boots too, the speakers are sometimes too loud.

  2. Gina says:

    Napaka-high tech naman talaga. I just hope that the time wouldn’t come when humans become useless and wouldn’t serve any purpose at all . Just thinking out loud,really….;-)

  3. bing says:

    I found it useful lalo na kung konti lang ang binili mo para di na pumila pa. Kahit dito sa amin ay may self-service machine at pwede ka pang mamili ng language (english, french, german, italiano). yung nga lang laging pinapaalala yung presyo 😀

  4. Wil says:

    We have those self-check out cash registers, also. The machine has the soothing voice of a woman reading aloud the price of the purchased item, so it’s not so bad. hehe.

  5. I miss doing online shopping! Used to do about 75% of my purchases online while living in NYC, but here in Manila, nada!

    Enjoy it, Kathy!

  6. rhodora says:

    Never done online shopping except the one time when my son bugged me to buy a book for him that was not available in local bookstores.

    Doing grocery shopping online can be pretty exciting, though. Saves on budget pa, kasi, you won’t be indulging in impulsive buys.

  7. kathy says:

    Hey dimaks, hisashiburi ne. 😉
    Dapat siguro may “mute” function para we can do away with the irritating announcements, no?

  8. kathy says:

    Research scientists in my institute are doing their darndest to develop humanoid robots which would replace humans in the workplace someday. But I guess you can also look at it this way – because we now have machines doing the work for us, we have more time to devote for fun and pleasure. :)

  9. kathy says:

    Yes, I agree. Kung kokonti lang yung items na kailangang bayaran, it would be very convenient indeed to use the self-service cashier.

    So you have four languages to choose from? Cool! Dito English at Japanese lang ang choice, eh.

  10. kathy says:

    Bedroom voice ba Wil? 😉 Now why don’t they use a man’s voice for a change? It just occurred to me that most recorded announcements use a woman’s voice.

  11. kathy says:

    I’m certainly enjoying myself! 😀 I’m pretty sure that it is just a matter of time before online shopping also becomes a fad in the country. Or has it already? Is security the reason why you haven’t done any online shopping in Manila?

  12. kathy says:

    It’s better for me to order books (English books) online than go to a bookstore to buy them. It’s more convenient, there are more varities to choose from, plus in general imported books are even cheaper when you buy them online. Siguro may patong na yung sa mga bookstores kaya mas mahal.

    I agree with you on the impulsive buys! Although admittedly, pumalya na rin ako sa pagbili ng clothes. They always seem to look better on the model, you know? 😛

  13. snglguy says:

    Imagine your embarrassment when you hear the cashier shout, “350 Yen for a box of condom!” 😀

    I’ve bought a lot of books online from Amazon.com. Things is, it came out more expensive because of the freight charges. So I think there is little or no truth that it’s cheaper to buy them online. Or maybe it’s just here in da Pilipins.

    Yes, a lot of Pinoys are doing online shopping these days too. Even airline ticket reservations are being done online, especially for the low-budget airlines.

    Hindi naman magpapahuli ang mga Noypi, hehe. 😀

  14. lyn says:

    You should really look into buying your groceries online, esp. if you’re buying for a family of four. It’ll definitely save you a lot of time. Most grocery stores in the US (or at lease NJ) now let you order items from your local market and drop it at your house. Since, they are bringing it from the local grocery (and not out of town), whatever is available at your local grocery will be available for you to order. I think you have to order at least a minimum amount (around $50-75 US) to have them deliver your groceries for free .. but that usually how much people spend anyway for a week to 2 weeks grocery, esp. if they have a family …

    The RFID system sounds really cool. I’d be interested to see how it works out .. I also love online shopping =p esp. when it comes to books. Not only do you have more options, but you also can read other readers reviews on the books before you buy them.

  15. Gypsy says:

    Much as I love the internet, when it comes to buying stuff, i am still quiet old-fashioned. I love to walked up and down aisles, touch bottles, sniff at colognes, browse through books, etc etc. :-)

  16. pining says:

    I never liked using those self service check out counters, too fiddly. but, they don’t read out loud here, he he
    like shopping online too, good when hunting for bargains :-)

  17. Toe says:

    Naku, malayo pa ang future from here. :( Books aren’t even readily available. Haha… that robot cashier sounds like fun (even if the voice is irritating). :)

  18. Toe says:

    Kathy, ngayon lang ako finally naka-comment successfully. I could never get the anti-spam string right. :)

  19. annamanila says:

    I sometimes ask what will they think of next. And this is one answer, Kathy. I dunno. For years and years, I loved to shop. I loved the smell of the fresh produce section, where you might find the redolent durian and wonder why the whole store didnt stink. I’d trolley push through the aisles — with or without child trailing behind or perched on the cart — and I’d feel regretful when I reach the last aisle. Kahit sa palengke enjoy din ako.

    FID? Aaah would be glad kung maabutan ko pa.

  20. vic says:

    The beauty of on-line shopping is I can able to buy gifts for my niece 5 miles away across the border. I ordered their p.c. and plasma t.v. online delivered and set up and all the kids did was clik and enjoy.

    Self serve cashier had been going in walmarts and big-box stores like the home depot and others in conjunctions with the old fashion “next please” attendants. What I like with self serve is the accuracy of even the cash change, while human cashier makes mistakes and won’t admit to sometimes.

  21. Leah says:

    I like the self-serve checkout when I only have a few items.

    It would be great when you can just go in and out of the stores without any cashier. You just get billed later from the RFID scans.

  22. smarie says:

    Kathy, I loved reading about your grocery experience there =D

    i too wish that there was some online grocery store available already. I’d be able to budget better if that were the case. And di na hassle where to park the car, falling in line, and carrying the bags of grocery back to the car.

    although the only time i get to go out is when i go to the grocery, so i shouldn’t really complain. LOL!

  23. Happy Mother’s Day, Kathy!

  24. Leah says:

    Happy Mother’s Day Kathy

  25. kathy says:

    Fortunately, the cashier doesn’t bother to announce the name of the item. :)

    As for books, I guess it could be more expensive to buy books from the US because of the freight charges, if you are based in the Philippines. But for some reason, the US-Japan charges are not that expensive. That is true for both postal and telephone fees – so yes, for us it’s cheaper to send packages to the US or call US-based residents than to the Philippines! Ironic, no?

    Anyway, nowadays I just order from Amazon.co.jp – this is based in Japan, and for a purchase of 1,500 yen or more the delivery charge is free. :)

    Local businesses in the country should take advantage of the conveniences of online shopping. Pinoys are indeed getting techno-savvy, eh?!

  26. kathy says:

    What you mentioned is amazing! I wish Japan would also implement such a system.

    I always buy my groceries from the same store. It would be very convenient indeed if there’s a way of buying groceries online from the same store. Hmm, but who knows? Maybe in the near future?

    I also find readers’ reviews very helpful. For me, it’s one of the important things to check out before buying a particular book.

  27. kathy says:

    I also know some people who don’t like the idea of using their credit cards online. Some of them don’t even own one. But here in Japan, sometimes online shopping does allow CODs or even payment through the convenience stores.

    However, there are also true-blue shoppers like yourself who’d rather see and feel the things before buying. But who knows, maybe sophisticated technology in the future can also manage to provide that to online shoppers? What an idea, huh? :)

  28. kathy says:

    Oh, good for you! If only I could “mute” those loudspeakers, I would, hehe.

    I agree, there are some really good deals in online shopping – wouldn’t want to miss out on those great bargains! :)

  29. niceheart says:

    I’m not much of an online shopper. Actually, I only do it when my oldest son asks me to buy CDs that are not available in the stores here. I also find that buying online is more expensive because of the shipping charges.

    We also do our groceries in the weekends and we usually have about 10 bags of groceries. This is for a family of five.

    Happy mother’s day nga pala, kathy.

  30. kathy says:

    Haha, I guess it could be fun the first time around…but after hearing it many times over, it could get in your nerves.

    Nice to see you again, Toe. :) Sorry, though, to hear about your difficulty about the captcha (for anti-spamming).

  31. kathy says:

    Anna, I’ve heard that some people find it therapeutic to go shopping. It does seem that people, like yourself, find it rather enjoyable and worthwhile. Different strokes for different folks, I guess. :)

    What would they come up with next? Faster, more convenient, less stressful, I hope.

    Btw, I found some durian at the grocery store here. Pero muntik na akong hinimitay sa kamahalan, lol. 😛

  32. kathy says:

    You ordered a PC and plasma TV for your niece? *drool* I wish I were one of your nieces. 😀

    Me too, I’d rather deal with a machine than with sometimes frowning, impersonal, prone-to-error humans. Come to think of it, cases like that makes the idea of “personal touch” quite ironic, eh?

  33. kathy says:

    I wish I could also limit my purchases to a few items at a time, but as I admitted, I’m not very fond of shopping that I tend to limit my trips to the store. So more often than not, I’d end up with a cartful of goodies each time. :)

    Anyway, I hope that the RFID system would be implemented sooner rather than later. It would surely make things more convenient. Although I’m sure that there are many issues involved like privacy, security, etc. I’d be watching closely the developments in this area.

  34. kathy says:

    I wonder myself whether I tend to be more of an impulsive buyer online than offline, haha. :)

    If going out for groceries is the only time you can go out, then have a blast at the store, Sheila! :)

  35. kathy says:

    @Eric and Leah
    Thanks for the greetings!

    Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers out there! 😀

  36. kathy says:

    10 bags of groceries! That must consume a lot of time.

    Oo nga naman, you have 4 guys in the family. But on the upside, they can all pitch in with the carrying of bags. :)

    Happy Mother’s Day to you Niceheart! :)

  37. Belle says:


    though it is kinda late already, hope you had a wonderful time celebrating mother’s day with your family. take care always.

  38. rhodora says:

    Happy Moms’ Day, Kathy! :)

  39. kathy says:

    @Belle and Rhodora,
    Thank you so much for the greeting. Belated Happy Mother’s Day to both of you. Mabuhay ang Pinoy moms! 😀

  40. auee says:

    hi there!
    The self-service counters are widely used here in London. I love using it & we don’t have the irritating voiceover. Unfortunately, when my toddler is with me, I avoid it even if it’s most convenient. My son keeps messing up the weighing of the items so we always end up waiting for assistance!

    I use online shopping a lot now that I’m in the UK. I have to say I’m still weary using Pinas based services as I’m still not convinced with their security measures.

  41. kathy says:

    My daughter usually sits inside the cart (you know, the ones where you kids can sit on), so she couldn’t really reach out and mess with the bags, hehe.

    I’ve not yet tried online shopping with Pinas-based businesses myself. Maybe one of these days I would, like for instance when sending cakes by Goldilocks or Red Ribbon to my loved ones. :)

    Thanks for dropping by, auee.

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