Coles is currently in a testing stage for a new technology which it may end up releasing to customers. A company called Hiku is behind the technology, who builds voice recognition devices that store a digital shopping list from home. If you don’t feel like speaking, the Hiku device can also scan barcodes of household items too. If, for example, you have just run out of milk or you're on your last bit of dried oregano, you can scan the barcodes and add these products directly to your online shopping list.
This is the 21st century’s answer to that paper and pen shopping list system you have stuck to your fridge door and so far its sounding pretty appealing. As with the paper shopping list (that you always have a habit of forgetting at home), the Hiku device can also be stuck to your fridge door for easy access. The system will work seamlessly with the Coles shopping app so all the items you add via Hiku, will be visible within it. Ultimately, technology is becoming more prevalent every where we turn, but how useful will this technology actually be, are we becoming over dependent on tech and how much out of pocket will we be to buy this gadget?
Hiku claim their device is so easy to use even a five year old can operate it. Press one button and the device takes care of the rest. The technology can be bought independently, so each item you scan is digitally uploaded to their mobile app. However, Coles want to take things one step further and integrate it into their shopping experience. Coles must be thinking with Woolworths in so much trouble, what with recently firing their CEO, why not get leaps and bounds ahead whilst the competition scrambles to regroup.
You might be wondering whether this device is just another one to add to the collection of devices you have charging next to your bed every night? The answer is no, as the ultra-low power standby mode is said to provide two months plus of battery life with normal use. The device only requires a Wi-Fi connection and there will not be a 3G version for the foreseeable future. Tech within the gadget consists of a 1D linear imaging scan engine, on-board microphone, micro-USB port and a rechargeable Lithium-ion battery.
Coles is currently running its two month trial of the technology with 50 online trial shoppers to understand how the technology can be actively used to improve our experience. At the same time, Coles will be working with Accenture to fully understand how the brand can benefit from the technology.
Some of you may remember not so long ago that Amazon debuted its own version of a similar technology they called the ‘Dash Button’ in the US. The Dash Button was limited, however, to only ordering one particular item ideally when you had run out and it was only available to Amazon Prime members. The company then moved forward and incorporated the Hiku technology into its system called ‘Amazon Dash.’ It allowed customers to order items from Amazon Fresh only.
Mark Cripsey, Coles' online general manager stated “At Coles, we love to involve our customers in our innovations and developments. We’ll be working closely with our trial shoppers to develop an experience that will make shopping simpler and quicker for families across Australia.”
My only concern is that currently the Hiku device costs US$79.99, which is roughly AU$101 at today's exchange rate. Now the last time I checked Officeworks, you could buy 500 A4 sheets of paper for $3.50. Split those sheets in half and you have 1,000 A5 sheets of paper to write a shopping list on, which is roughly 19 years of shopping list paper if were to create a shopping list every week. I don’t know about you, but even my $100 Samsung phone has a notes app where I can create my shopping list and for the same money it even makes phone calls, sends text messages and on the odd occasion allows me to surf the Internet.
If you ask me, unless Coles make this technology affordable to the point that every Australian wants and can afford to have it within their homes, I don’t believe the $100 cost is justifiable. Technology that doesn’t really do more than I can already do myself isn’t necessarily an innovation, perhaps just another means to get money out of our pockets quicker and into the coffers of Coles.
I would love to hear your thoughts, especially as supermarket shopping is a task that every member of westernised society has to go through. Can you see yourself buying this and do you believe it to be of any real benefit in your household?