Sobeys Inc. Teases New Smart Trolley

By Ben Hamill - October 27 2019
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Long gone are the days of pushing one another around in squeaky-wheeled grocery shopping carts, much to the annoyance of our parents who only wanted to navigate the grocery isles and get done with it. There’s a new breed of shopping trolley in town; one that would back in the day in all likelihood have been able to tell us exactly where to “get off”. Oh, and no more squeaking and wheel alignment issues either.

It’s the work of grocery giant Sobeys Inc. and the future of shopping is being decided in everyday Toronto suburbia. The company unveiled its new trolley at its Oakville, Ontario, store and says that what was revealed is essentially Canada’s first ever “smart shopping trolley”.

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Next-Level Shopping

Sobeys’ shopping cart takes the mundane act of acquiring one’s weekly supplies and grocery necessities to a whole new level. The cart is kitted out with everything from multiple cameras to scales, scanners and a payment processing system. The push-bar too, has undergone a major transformation as instead of displaying the name of the store and some worn-out sloppy slogan, it now features a computerised information display screen where everything from an inventory of the items currently on-board, to current in-store promotions can be viewed.

Best of all is that this is no gimmick, explains Sobeys Inc. executive Mathieu Lacoursiere. The idea is to make shopping to be a seamless and “frictionless” experience for Sobeys-customers, said Lacoursiere about the latest addition to the Sobeys family. And considering the fact that the humble shopping cart has not changed in what may very well be hundreds of years, the recent upgrades have been long overdue.

Expected Rollout Mid-November

The Glen Abbey store will be rolling out 10 of the new trolleys around mid-November, as part of the concept’s pilot test-and-reveal phase. Staff will receive the necessary training, after which it will be all systems go.

The Sobeys smart cart is slightly smaller than a standard conventional shopping trolley, but certainly makes up in application in terms of what it lacks space-wise. Items displaying barcodes are simply run past the on-board scanner by the customer, and then dropped into the cart. Those items that are priced according to weight, such as fresh produce as select bulk items offered by the chain, are automatically detected as being weighted items, weighed, priced and totalled in a matter of seconds, with no additional action required on the part of the customer. The on-board computer is smart and exceptionally intuitive and resets after each item has been added and processed.

The New York tech company responsible for the design and manufacturing of the smart trolleys, namely Caper, has revealed some of what we may expect in terms of future upgrades. Artificial intelligence and real-time machine learning are all expected to be part of the trolleys of the future. Examples of practical applications would be carts recommending specific items based on programmable recipes, making meal recommendations based on items already on-board, complementing in-store promotions by suggesting specific grocery items currently on sale, and much, much more.

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