Connected Shelves with Sensors and The Future of Shopping

1057.01-14FaceCake_WebIt’s a sensor world and we just live in it. Supermarket giant Mondelez International is testing ‘smart’ shelves that track the age and gender of passing shoppers. Some might say this is really creepy, others might think it’s the future of retail. The grocery shelves will make their debut in 2015 and will help retailers ‘better understand the customer’. Here’s how it might work according to the Wall Street Journal:

Sensors determine that a male teenager is standing in front of the shelf by analyzing facial structure and other characteristics used to determine age and gender. The sensors use this data to alert the display to feature something that a teenage boy is more likely to buy, such as gum or a chocolate bar.  If the boy looks at the shelf long enough, the shelf’s display may play a video targeted for his demographic.

Microsoft Kinect
The shelves have a integration with sensors from Microsoft Kinect. The kinect is best known as a gaming tool, however Microsoft is also pushing the device to retailers. Kinect’s sensor set allows retailers to inexpensively offer new shopping experiences. This is how Kinect can work while shopping for clothes.

New data points
The experimental shelves are part of a pilot by the global snack manufacturer to integrate sensor tech of the sort found in your smartphone into product research and marketing. There are other sensor applications in stock as well. Think of embedded weight sensors that detect when customers pick up products. You can directly connect this to advertising. As soon as someone picks something off the shelve, a pop up on a phone or a near display can show a discount to make sure you buy the product.

Gaming the systems if also an option by faking doubt at the shelves by standing there and see how many discounts you can score. However face tracking can also be used to limit the amount of coupons a shopper can get each time.

The creepy line
Mondelez says they won’t record individual data on passing supermarket shoppers, but will use the aggregate information to help tailor marketing campaigns. However, when more of these applications follow, soon there will be a profile of us based on data points from the physical world, and it might become just as rich as our online profiles.

Question is, will the trade off be sufficient? What do you think?

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