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