It's Saturday morning and it's also time to do grocery shopping for the week. How boring! Now, researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology think they can help you to shop faster and cheaper.
Someday soon grocery shoppers using a wireless personal digital assistant (PDA) may be able to interact with a store's computer system to locate items and learn about special promotions.
In a field test of a prototype PDA system developed by Georgia Institute of Technology researchers, shoppers reported that the device made shopping easier and more efficient. Shoppers tended to avoid impulse buys and also found items in the store more quickly. On the downside, shoppers did not like holding the PDA while shopping, and many suggested a docking station on the shopping cart.
Georgia Tech Associate Professor of Computing John Stasko supervised the project of his former students, Erica Newcomb and Toni Pashley.
From their research, Pashley and Newcomb created a scenario that could be implemented now and offers many of the features shoppers want. In the scenario, the local grocery store contains an always-on information system. The shopper, who is a member of the local grocery store's frequent shoppers club, is immediately recognized upon entering the store. The shopper either brings a PDA-stored list from home or receives one from the store based on their previous purchases.
Once the shopper enters the store, the list is reordered to provide the most efficient route to obtain every item on the list. Shoppers check off items as they acquire them, review and add specials to the list, view and save recipes and watch for in-store specials.
So far, the team only built early prototypes which have been used in a test study in a Kroger store in Atlanta.
This is not the first attempt at helping grocery shoppers. For example, you can read about Safeway's tests in this story, "New shopping technology could breed supermarket class system."
Shoppers are greeted by the ``Magellan'' -- a shopping cart with a book-sized computer on the front handle. A side slot lets shoppers swipe their Safeway ``club'' cards -- the identification most major grocers now require for discounts on certain items.
Reading the club card enables the shopping cart's computer to tap into the buying histories Safeway has compiled on most customers. The cart can then display four grocery items offered at sales prices unavailable to anyone else.
The computer also provides a guide to each consumer's most frequently purchased items and monitors the shopper's steps through the aisles, flashing ads to promote nearby merchandise.
A final question: Is this technology an efficient help for you and me or is this Big Brother watching us? You'll soon vote with your wallets.
Sources: Georgia Institute of Technology, April 3, 2003; Associated Press, November 10, 2002
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