What could Grocery-IoT look like?

Blog Post created by douglas.bay on Oct 26, 2016

Possibly it's just me, however I commonly* find myself thinking how IoT, payments and simplification of daily duties could be mashed together to simplify the grocery store. Since I pass by our grocery store daily, I'm usually the one given a list of items to buy. The list in itself for some reason has always seemed a very inefficient way to shop. Why you may ask? First, it's never in the proper order of items in the store. I commonly find myself backtracking for items lower down in the list. So before I start shopping I sometimes sit in the car to familiarize myself with the list. That way I can come up with an efficient game plan as to where I need to go for each item. Second, it's never quite accurate. How am I supposed to know the difference between tomato sauce versus pureed tomato sauce. Or ground turkey versus minced turkey. Third, I commonly have to aggregate from multiple different delivery mechanisms. Sometimes I get the list through handwritten images sent by my wife. Other times it's add-on items texted to me after the arrival of the image. Yet other times, it's a handwritten version that has multiple additions via text. Fourth, the list is never complete thus usually leading to additional trips to the grocery store either after I get home or the following day. There are a few other items that really stress me out about grocery shopping however I think you get the picture.


So how could IoT improve the grocery store? I believe that the solution starts with the last checkout and builds upon itself with all subsequent checkout's. What if either the card reader or my phone could could store all of the items I purchased. Possibly upon checkout I use my phone to read a QR code (printed on my receipt or screen of a kiosk) that allowed an app to request through an open API (think HATEOS) a summary of all items just purchased. From there the application could offer other features through other open API's such as recipes which would post to my application breakfast, lunch and dinner ideas. I could quickly scan the possibilities and use the application to check if I have all of the ingredients (as well as enough of all ingredients) in my cart. I know it's a bit inefficient at this point to have to go back through the store and buy additional items however bear with me. So this completes round one of Grocery-IoT experience which I'd admit so far isn't too impressive. I think this model gets better with use, so let's move to round 2.


So after trying some cool new recipes (which by the way I could signup for multiple different recipe preferences like vegetarian, traditional, Asian etc.) it's three days later and time to go shopping again. This time however the grocery list is a little more automated. My family can add to the list through our IPad via recipes or ingredients or through using a home assistant like Amazon Echo / Google home. Possibly they liked one of the recipes we tried and instead of writing each ingredient they simply select the recipe. Since the app knows what I bought and how much I bought it could build a starter list. For example I need 2 lbs of beef steak. Since I previously purchased 2 lbs it would be smart enough to know I'll need more so add it to the list. Versus say previously I purchased 48 oz of salt and the new recipe needs 2 tbls. Obviously not time to buy more salt. After selecting the recipe, the app could recommend other things that go well with the meal. So a recommended salad and wine pairing. Or in the case of game day the proper pairing of beer, BBQ and chips to go with the short ribs. What if the app is also smart enough to identify when cooking gadgets need to be purchased. Possibly an open API to see if Amazon or the nearby Target has gadgets like waffle makers, or Coffee makers that I'll need. Thus leading to online to onsite or online to online purchase. Now back to round two. Instead of the old image of a written grocery list, the app provides a sorted laundry list in the order of items in the store. This could be accomplished possibly through another open API provided by the grocery store. Or it could be generated dynamically based on past visits and when I checked off the item. By the way, the checking off of items is also a big deal to me as in the past I had to repeatedly look at an image delivered in my text messages. This would also be a great time for the store to offer loyalty or coupons for the item I have in hand. Possibly a way to scan the item and let the store make me offers? I'd also call out that this whole vision is real time. So as I check items off, my wife could submit just in time additions (not sure if this is a good thing or not as she likes to mess with me at times).


So what do we gain with repeated use. So round 3 to "n". For me, many of our grocery visits comprise repeatable items. So milk, cereal, coffee, meat, hot dogs for the kids, bananas, butter etc.. With repeated use we'll find that there are core lists that we use almost every week and as such are likely on the next list. The recipes allow us to grow into other options and things we'd not normally buy. I'd think this would be attractive to a grocery store. With recipe retrieval as a consumer I can think in terms of the meals I'm making and not the ingredients. Valuable when planning out the week for our kids meals. We also have inventory tracking at home. We have ease of use and more efficient grocery isle management. We possibly have support of online to onsite or online to online purchases for hard to find ingredients or cooking tools. We have better redemption of coupons and loyalty cards (think how well Starbucks does this). Heck, speaking of Starbucks possibly we order our favorite drink as we pull into the parking lot? We have just in time add-on's. We gain complimentary purchases that go well with the items we have in our baskets. There are many other benefits to this next evolution in shopping. I'd love to hear other ideas you may have. Here's the tech I'd think could be used to make this story a reality.


IoT devices (growing)

- Card reader device

- Cell Phone(s)

- Computer, Tablet etc.

- Augmented Reality headset

- Refrigerator

- Washer Dryer

- Watch that guides you through the store

- Uber

- Amazon Echo / Google home (or home assistant)

- Bometric Authentication What's more unique than Me?


Additional spin-off services

- Grocery home delivery

- Autonomous grocery delivery. Just this week Budweiser/Uber tested a semi that drove 120 miles to deliver beer.

- Online to onsite or Online to online ordering

- Ability to associate application with grocery loyalty card as well as coupon offers.


* Let me qualify this blog by stating that early on in my life, I was corrupted. I obtained an engineering degree which forever cursed me to see the world in how it should be and not how it is. Poorly designed things, technology solutions waiting to be applied, and various other things are commonly annoying me on a daily basis.


I'd also like to thank the team at Money 2020 hackathon who brought me in to ideate on this topic and thus prompted the blog post. Here's another great summary blog around the hackathon.


IoT influence at home