Will "Smart Carts" Lead to Smarter Shopping?
Fujitsu is piloting a new shopping cart technology called the U-Scan Shopper, which allows shoppers to download their shopping lists from their Bluetooth-enabled PDAs to the "smart cart." The carts will cost about $1,200 each.
The concept has promise, but anyone familiar with grocery stores can already spot the downsides. Stolen carts are a perennial problem for retailers, who aren't going to appreciate losing $1,200 every time a U-Scan disappears. Secondly, there's usability. From the description, one must be fairly tech savvy to make use of the U-Scans. Grandma simply won't be bothered. And since the system relies on Bluetooth-enabled PDAs, only stores in relatively affluent communities will be interested.
Third, my sense is that the U-Scan is trying to latch on to an existing process (shopping) rather than redesigning the process altogether. As a result, it only adds a layer ot complexity to the process. Perhaps something like U-Scan will make more sense once more grocery items are tagged with RFID tags. Or, skip the U-Scan altogether and make the grocer's system work with shoppers' PDAs. Stores could give away free software that would allow shoppers to maintain their grocery lists; it will be cheaper for the stores and just as easy for the customers. And store clerks won't have to fish $1,200 shopping carts out of drainage ditches.
Sources: eWeek, Smart Mobs