Are Tablet-Equipped Trollies The Future Of Supermarket Shopping?

Last weekend, I quickly tested out a high-tech supermarket trolley that lets you scan items as you go and find items anywhere in the store. It was a fun experience, but is it the future of shopping?

I first read about the infra-red and tablet-equipped trolleys at the Supa IGA store in Carindale, Brisbane on Gizmodo back in January. Over the weekend, I got the chance to visit the store and try it out for myself. As a visitor to Brisbane, I wasn't in a position to do a full-scale family shop, but it was fun to play around with the trolley a little.

The enhanced trolleys (which are stored separately at the entrance of the store, but don't require a security deposit or any other complications) feature two main elements: a combined scanner and keypad built into the handle, and a full-colour tablet displaying information at the front end of the trolley. If you're a member of the store loyalty program, you can sign in for customised content, but I didn't get that option.

As you move around the shop, an infra-red scanning unit identifies which aisle you are in and tells you the main products in that aisle. You can also search for specific items and get directed to the appropriate location. Typing is slightly fiddly, since you only have a numeric keypad, but I didn't find it too burdensome, and I can understand that the keypad is a more robust input solution than a touchscreen.

Once you've found something you want to buy, you can scan it through the reader and have the price automatically added to your shopping list. No nasty surprises when you hit the checkout. You can also browse a list of in-store recipes and serving suggestions, though there weren't a lot on offer when I checked it out.

So it worked without me managing to break it (no mean feat), but will it take off? The supermarket was far from crowded when I visited, but I did seem to be the only person who had opted to use the trolley. For a first-time user, being able to find obscure items was helpful, but if this was your local, I imagine you'd end up using that feature relatively infrequently after you'd learned the main store layout. Equally, tracking your total as you go is useful, but it strikes me that few of the supermarket shoppers I see in my day-to-day life seem especially concerned about what they're spending on a supermarket visit. The best tactics for saving money often aren't deployed.

More to the point: you could get virtually all the same features via a smartphone app (though the aisle location might be a tad iffy). That wouldn't require brand new trollies (indeed, people just buying a handful of items could use it). We might be a way off from that being a regular feature of supermarket shopping, but it feels more like the future to me than gussying up the trolleys. What do you think?

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    It's a good idea if it can direct you to the stuff you need and tell you what's in the current isle. What do you do on the way out though, transfer your shopping to a non pad attached trolley? I think the cost of this option will limit it to the higher end shopping centres, you know... the ones with less Bogans..! :)

    this is the future. always has been in one form or another. This technology + movement tracking (camera and NFC) + loyalty programs means they will know who you are, what you buy, whats in your trolley, and what your normal patterns of shopping are. You are pushing a trolley with a screen directly in front of you. Its like a paid advertisement on TV, but you have no choice but to watch it for 15-30mins as you go about buying items. It will recommend items based on whats already in your trolley and what your normally buy, and where you are in the store. If you happen to passing the drinks isle, it will mention their is a discount on the 3L coke based on the fact you have chips or snacks in the trolley. Supermarkets will moving towards actively changing your spending habits as you shop. Like it or not, here it comes.

      If this is the future, I think I will continue to live in the past, thanks.

      So how does it react when you throw your jacket over the screen?

    I think the better idea would be to have it integrate WITH the smartphone apps, when you get there, you simply scan your shopper card, or use NFC or whatever and it looks up what you have added to your shopping list and directs you where to get it, allowing you to scan as you go.

    What do you do when you leave the shop though? Take the trolley or leave it?

      Yes, or some form of localised GPS that knows the layout of the shop and location of goods on the shelves, and works its way through your shopping list in the quickest order telling you exactly where to find each item on your list.

    I see a few possible barriers to using this:

    1) Unless it's dead simple to use (as in, you scan an item and not have to do anything extra like press buttons or read text), people will dismiss it as too high-tech
    2) These things are going to get loaded into some guy's truck and stolen, or possibly even busted by idiots looking for a laugh. Unless there's someone personally following the user out to the car or some kind of ID is required to get one, I'd be expecting one or two losses.
    3) At self-service checkouts, if you cancel an item, an employee has to put in their details to authorize the cancel (to stop people scanning an item, doing a sneaky cancel and walking out with free stuff). Is there anything similar in place for this?

    maybe an android/apple app - wifi usb or bluetooth connect to do the same thing. maybe i'm dreaming.

    That's an expensive trolley that will end up at the bottom of local rivers & creeks.

      they don't let you take the trolley out to the car park, at the checkout they transfer the items after scanning them at the register to another regular trolley.

    why would supermarkets want to make it easy for you to find items.. for example, ever noticed how the bread & milk (two most popular items) are located on opposite ends of the store... They sell more unnecessiary items this way.

      Yeah our local coles it's like Bread is at the entrance milk is middle back, eggs middle front and bacon at the far end!

        I don't even know where the Eggs are in our local IGA, they keep moving them.

        But yeah, bread and milk are in opposite ends, normally we go to the bakery a few metres away where it stocks both bread and milk next to each other. WOW.

    Not everyone has a smart phone. I, for one, would love this trolley while shopping. Especially if you can scan an item and then decide it's too expensive and put it back without it affecting the trolley count.

      Wouldn't you know that from the shelf label?

    add rfid for payment and tracking, using either a credit card flot on the trolly or have it interface with a specilised self check out and i'd use it all the time

    Considering my local Coles store has just put on logs on the wheels of trollies because people were stealing them, I don't think they are going to stick on expensive smart devices to trollies any time soon.

    A lot of shopping centers now lock the wheels of the trolleys when it leaves a certain perimeter . These devices will have the same no doubt. You probably also find a packing station where they would make you swap the trolley.

    Too hard. We trialled these trollies at our local IGA well over a year ago. The store even had demonstrators. Too many buttons , not intuitive, too long to shop. Our store let you take them to the car park and chuck them in the rack. The shop decided they were not a good idea after months of them not being used.

    I agree that a smartphone app seems like a better option. Would be easier and cheaper to add a phone cradle to a trolley than this whole expensive setup. The only problem I have with the app is that at my local supermarkets, the 3G reception is quite frankly terrible, especially when you are at the back of store. They would have to provide some free Coles/Woolies WiFi to make it really work.

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