Technology is no stranger to the grocery shopping experience. We’ve all grown accustomed to those self-checkout aisles (for better or for worse). However, these unmanned aisles are just the tip of the iceberg.
Imagine skipping the checkout experience entirely. Or, let’s take it one step further: imagine never having to step foot in a grocery store ever again.
It can – and will – happen, especially if these innovations have anything to say about it.
Before we talk about all the ways technology is going to utterly revolutionize your grocery shopping experience, why not focus on some of the ways inventors are using it to improve our existing experience.
Consider Kroger Co., whose 2,778 stores make it the largest supermarket chain in the U.S. Kroger has already deployed cameras and infrared sensors in its stores to monitor foot traffic, and is using data algorithms to schedule cashiers in real time.
“We want to bring technology to life in the store,” Chris Hjelm, Kroger’s Chief Information Officer told the Wall Street Journal.
Take for example, their pilot program with pharmacies. People at pharmacies and the deli don’t line up to check out. They’re coming from all sides. Kroger is using video to not only detect how many people are in front of a counter, but how long they’ve been waiting.
If you’re a pharmacist, with your head down working, you can be alerted right on your computer display that a customer has been waiting for 60 seconds without being helped.
That technology is pretty neat, but isn’t it, at times, a bit inconvenient to have to go to a checkout counter at all? Why can’t you just pick up what you want and leave (without being tackled by security guards)?
You can. Or, at least, you will.
And of course, you can thank Amazon for that. Amazon Go (with a location in Seattle), is a grocery store without registers.
Instead, shoppers scan into the store with their free Amazon Go app, shop as they normally would, and leave the store with the items billed to their Amazon.com account. Amazon’s been running a pilot program with the store and its employees, but hopes to open it to the public soon. And, with Amazon recently purchasing Whole Foods, it’s safe to say that the future of organic grocery shopping is almost certainly about to change.
Amazon has already found ways to help you skip the trip to the grocery store altogether. Their Dash technology is an adhesive button that connects to the Internet. Once it’s pressed, an order is automatically sent to Amazon (say, for example, when you run out of laundry detergent).
But Dash isn’t the only player in this on-demand grocery shopping game.
Imagine a fridge that can track food usage and then order items running low. We’re almost there. Samsung’s Family Hub refrigerator, for example, takes pictures of the fridge’s contents every time the door is closed. Consumers can then connect to a smartphone app to view those pictures while they’re at the store, to see if they’re running low on eggs, milk, or other items.
Surely a self-ordering fridge is just a few years away.
And then there’s the drone delivery service. Drones are pretty controversial, and while the technology exists to allow for drone delivery, there are some other legalities and logistics to consider.
But self-driving automobiles, or droids, could be the potential grocery home delivery disruptors.
London-based startup Starship Technologies has introduced a small, self-driving droid that travels on city sidewalks at safe, pedestrian speed.
These robots can carry the equivalent of two grocery bags and can be tracked, by shoppers, in real time through a mobile app. That same app also ensures that only authorized customers can unlock the cargo upon arrival.
Grocery shopping isn’t necessarily a complex experience. But it can be a hassle. It can be time-consuming. And for people with disabilities or other restrictions, it can be a challenge.
Technological advances, like the innovations listed above, aim to revolutionize how we grocery shop. The future of grocery shopping has arrived.
Are you prepared?