Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research IGD have offered a glimpse into the future of shopping with ‘eShop’, a portable shopping companion that can do more than record personalised electronic shopping lists.
Before leaving home, the user types a shopping list into a personal digital assistant (PDA) together with various other information on preferred products. When the user gets to the supermarket, instead of wasting time hunting for the right items or special offers, digital labels affixed to the shelves – flexible, intelligent transponders – capture the data from the user’s PDA by radio link and sends back all the necessary information.
Through a link to the in-store server, the user receives information on products in stock and special offers on the device’s mini-display. A particularly useful feature is said to be the ability to instantly compare prices with those previously recorded at another store.
The researchers believe that one day it will be possible to access the Internet for an even wider source of price comparisons.
The researchers anticipate a time when all items on sale will carry an electronic label. The electronic assistant will be able to read the prices of the items that have been chosen, without actually being in physical contact with them.
Shoppers will then be able to read an ongoing tally of the total cost of the goods placed in the shopping trolley.
The electronic labels are based on extremely thin, flexible transponders, currently being developed by the Fraunhofer Institutes for Reliability and Microintegration IZM and for Microelectronic Circuits and Systems IMS.