The Digital Signage Insider

IBM's Shopping Buddy: A Kiosk on Wheels

Published on: 2004-10-18

A number of outlets are now reporting that IBM, in a partnership with Cuesol will be rolling out (no pun intended) smart shopping carts to about 25 Stop & Shop supermarkets in the first quarter of 2005.  The carts feature all of the things that you would expect to see (wayfinding, product location, coupon and discount notification, etc.) as well as some new features like emailing your shopping list to the store ahead of time and self-checkout without waiting in line.  It's the latter feature that makes me thing that this experiment might pan out more than some otherwise very similar ones in the late 90's and early '00s. (I tried to find some links to some of the more spectacular failures, but it looks like all of those companies have gone under).

I'm still skeptical about this sort of application.  For one, I still see people regularly dragging their shopping carts out of the supermarket parking lot and into the adjacent apartment community.  While I'm sure that they usually make it back into the parking lot eventually, I wonder what would happen if there was a cool-looking touchscreen computer attached to it.  Also, despite claims by IBM and Cuesol that everybody from the very young to the very old can use these systems, I also have my doubts about this product being usable only by computer savvy individuals.  And finally, there are a host of logistics concerns like maintaining product placement databases, making sure that the kiosk's batteries stay charged, and so on, although those are the sorts of issues that IBM is traditionally pretty good about dealing with.

I haven't seen any good pictures of the complete shopping cart yet, but there is a nice rendering of Cuesol's "Cart Companion" here.


Comments   

0 sophie bonfils 2008-02-12 21:37
Great device ! Always found it hard to look at shelves myself.
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0 Bill Gerba 2008-02-12 22:50
Hi Sophie, Yeah, the Shopping Buddy was definitely ahead of its time back in 2004... From what I understand, there were some technological and logistical issues that prevented these devices from getting picked up in any kind of quantity, but today there are a couple of companies trying to capitalize on the same idea. Perhaps the most well known is [[http://www.mediacart.com/|MediaCart]], which kind of merges together many kiosk and digital signage ideas into a shopping cart computer format.
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0 arthur bourgeois 2008-03-10 14:22
hello The shopping buddy is a good initial idea but how long will it take before we are invaded by advertisements on these small screens. I think that this is one of the things we should fear about it. Even if their first intention is good, competition between stores will lead to an escalation in possibilities of help offered, and such a good opportunity to touch people won't be spared by advertisers. In the end, the main losers will be consumers because it is so easy to become dependent and so difficult to free himself from his dependence. ItTMs another step to mollycoddling.
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0 Cline ETTOU 2008-03-10 22:06
Hello Bill Gerba First, the shopping buddy is a good idea on several points because it is a real time-saving device and it is easy, speed and practical. However, it represents important limits. Indeed, the automated checkout and the high-tech cart elimate each time, more jobs. Besides, we wonder how far the technology will lead us? The society is automating and human contacts are decreasing. To finish, we can be afraid of the advertising which will spread on screens of shopping carts.
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0 Sarah BEJAOUI 2008-03-11 17:58
Hello On the one hand, the shopping buddy is a device very useful for many people as: it's convenient and easy. It helps you in your shopping by showing you what in the aisle is in your list, what you bought in the past and what's on sale so that you can save money. What's more there is a map in the device which show you where to find the products you are looking for. Then the shopping buddy told you how much you have spent so you can handle your spending. But on the other hand, the shopping buddy can be an important issue of unemployement first of all. The shopping budy eliminates the need of check-out, cashiers, baggers... Trade Unions are scared as it cuts thousands of jobs. Then, with this device, you can be tracked over all the supermarket. It knows what you buy, what you bought, where you are and where you go. It is a kind of infringement on privacy. Despite that the shopping buddy is a way for business who can't compete on price, to compete on way of shopping for consumers.
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0 pauline bayle 2008-03-11 18:07
Hello, Even if the shopping buddy is a device made to attract customers and to make them buy more, I still think it also could be useful for customers. First it could simplify your shopping, when you don't know where to find the items. Besides, it allows you to order what you want and go and pick it at the Deli counter, without having to queue.
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0 La Condemine 2008-03-11 18:30
Hello, On the one hand, I think that the shopping buddy is a good thing because il allows people to save time in the aisles and at the checkout. But on the second hand,I think that it's a bad thing because this high-technology cut jobs and it tries to substitute for human contact. To finish, the shopping buddy is can invade people with the advertising.
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0 julia champomier lapciuk 2008-03-11 19:26
I think that shopping buddy is a good idea because we can earn time and there is more chance that we don't forget anything when we do our shopping. The fact that it also give you new recipies when you don't have any ideas of what you can buy is also interesting. However i think that it is not very easy to use for some people as old peolple. If we start in this way, i think that everything is going to be automatic like automatic checkout and it will take out a lot of jobs. It makes people dependant of the technologie as well and so, people feel like they can't do anything by themself. SO my mind about this idea of shopping buddy is mixed.
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0 erica josserand 2008-03-11 20:44
Hi, first the shopping buddy is a useful innovation,in a sens where it expedites the consumer's life. But one element who seems to me like perverse is the fact that stores wants the customer to buy more and more. Thus at first,he buys serenely, without thinking to the bad side of the device.It can become a trap. He only sees the practical side. And it's an recent trend, when will complaints appear ??..
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0 Damien Borao 2008-03-11 22:00
Hello, Actually I think that a shopping buddy is very useful even if it implies some trouble. We can take the example of poor familys or young people who need to plan their spendings. Some people criticize the fact that a shopping buddy is like a Big Brother , but technology is not that bad. Big Brother have advantages in terms of security and a shopping buddy have advantages in terms of convenience . Nowadays winners are those who ease the citizens lives and who make people gain more time, everybody knows that in our society time is money or, better said, time is pleasure The question is : Are those advantages pertinent in front of all the annoyances all of you have described.
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0 Bill Gerba 2008-03-12 11:40
Hey folks with French-sounding names? Why the sudden burst of interest in a 3-year-old blog article about a product that never went anywhere? It's not that I don't appreciate the attention, I just don't understand the reason for it :)
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0 Sophie Bonfils 2008-03-12 20:24
Sophie BONFILS Lyon France Dear Bill Gerba, I'm an English teacher from France, and I have requested my students to post comments on your blog as part of a final assignment on the topic of new technologies in the world of distribution. You can see their assignment on my website, where I also took the liberty to copy part of your blog page: http://sofilip.free.fr/video/distribution/shoppingtech.html I want to apologize for not asking you permission to do so beforehand, and for any inconvenience to you . (.../...)
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0 Sophie Bonfils 2008-03-12 20:26
I had found your page useful as it gave us a personal opinion and more insight into the qualities of that device. If it's all right with you, may I ask something: the assignment is due for this friday, in two days' time: would it be ok to leave the comments till then so the group can have a look at them ? Thank you very much in advance if you can support our little elearning experience. By the way, I was sorry to read that the shopping buddy is totally outdated, since we spent a whole week on the subject ! Best regards,
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0 nacera khalfi 2008-03-13 19:45
hello, As for me the device is very useful when i think about time we will save by using it. Indeed, shopping will not be a chore anymore because customers will know exactly what there is in their shopping list, where items are in the outlet.It doesn't still exist in France and i think it's a pity. But, there are several drawbacks which lead me to criticize it. For instance, it will cut jobs, the human contact with vendors will disappear and it confirms that today we are invaded by technological items.
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0 Assa FADEL 2008-03-13 21:02
Hello Bill, I find your article very interesting because it deals with a new system that it can be change our practices in the supermarkets. Unfortunately, I donTMt think that all the people can be able to use it, thatTMs why ITMm totally agree with you. Second problem, itTMs unimaginable to keep shopping carts outside, it an expensive product and it could be stolen. In spite of those problems, I think that this shopping cart could run but not in shopping centre, just in small stores because in shopping centre, the products are constantly moved what can involve errors. I regret to read that the project was cancelled, but ITMm sure, with their imagination they will create an other products more revolutionist than the shopping buddy, you never know
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0 Alexandre Arthus 2008-03-13 21:19
Hello Bill, i think the shopping buddy is just one of the devices we're going to see appear these next years. It is a new generation of devices that are more close to the consumer, a supplementary assistance. On the first hand, it's kind of a useful device ! It permits you to know where the items you're looking for are, it remembers what you bought, it helps you with the prices, and the total. It will help us doing what we are made to, consuming. But, on the second hand, it encroaches a little more on the private life of people, keeping in the data base the personal information which will be re-used by some companies. Furthermore, the screen will certainly allow soon to broadcast advertisingpublicity, to encourage people to consume. That's why my mind is shared, between curiosity and fear, as we are more and more watched out. I think we have to use this devices, but it should be there just to help us, and not being there in order to make us consume. But they couldn't have developped this device without the IBM's useful help. So, i hope that it will not infringe on our private life, and that we shall manage to consider this object as a help, and not as an incitement to consume always more.
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0 Marion G 2008-03-14 09:08
Hello, The concept of shopping buddy is kind of interesting and quite a good idea. The problem of collecting personal data on customers is not new and this shopping cart cannot be hold responsible for this phenomenon. According to me this device is less efficient than traditional advertising. Anyway I'm staying skeptical: I really do not believe it is so time-saving. Some people are still in trouble with using any kind of computer...
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0 Bill Gerba 2008-03-14 13:33
Hello class! Overall it seems that you like the concept of the Shopping Buddy, though there are still a few skeptics among you. While there are some new enterprises (notably [[http://www.mediacart.com/|MediaCart]]) still trying to make this idea work, IBM found that the practical and logistical issues (like batteries, maintenance and reliability) were almost as hard to deal with as the fact that shoppers simply didn't use the devices. Now you're a bunch of young folks, I'm sure, and perhaps the technology is more appealing to you, but I'll ask you -- if the Shopping Buddy (or something similar) was available in all of the Carrefour stores today, would you bother using it?
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0 Claire Bauerl 2008-03-14 19:35
Hello, Shopping buddy could be a great idea if we look far and away. I believe consumers purchase often in the same supermarket so why do they need to know with shopping buddy where items are?? On my view, it's more time-consuming(to send the list by internet) than learn where are the items lay out and it doesn't build customer loyalty(we can shop everywhere and we'll never be lost). So i don't arrived to imagine that this product could have a huge impact !!!
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0 Joel BUNGA 2008-03-18 19:50
Hello, First of all, I think the shopping buddy makes an evolution in the traditional shopping. It's a good idea but we should mistrust in those technologies. It's useful because we can find our product very easily and it reduce our queuetime.The issue is that, in the big supermakets, items are moved every week, so it's going to be hard to follow for the device. To finish this device it's expensive and could be stolen when costumers go back to their car.
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0 Roz 2008-09-30 19:22
While the "shopping buddy" looks like a good idea on the surface, I believe that this "advanced" form of technology will be not only too expensive for most companies to afford, but also ineffective. The "shopping buddy" will only appeal to a small target market; we must remember that the majority of shoppers are of earlier generations. They will not be as computer savvy as the 20 - 30 year olds that are browsing the internet and commenting on blogs (like this one).
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0 you know 2008-09-30 19:22
Roz get a life!
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0 Luca 2014-04-06 15:48
Bill, It would be interesting to hear the motivations from the Store that tested the system and understand from their side why this project turned out to be useless for them and failed.
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