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Easy Shopping – A Smart shopping assistant December 10, 2012

Posted by Sapna Sumanth in Mobility.
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Introduction

Shopping, which used to be a fun activity, nowadays has become a hassle. It’s time consuming and stressful, both physically and mentally. People need to time it appropriately in order to avoid long lines and chaos at the supermarkets. Even though these shopping places have enough counters for checkout, less than half of it will be active at any given time which makes checkout process a painful activity.
The application proposed here is called “Easy Shopping”. Easy Shopping will be available on all smart devices and offers a variety of features making shopping a very pleasant experience. Easy Shopping will have a list of stores like Walmart, Target, Sendiks, Pick & Save etc. and the user can choose which store he/she would like to go for shopping and use its features.

Application Features

When the user starts Easy Shopping application he/she would be authenticated and directed to their respective accounts. Once they are authenticated the user can access the following set of features. There is also a settings view which the user can access it using smartphone settings. Here the user can save their credentials, credit card information and other profile information.
1. Shopping lists
Users can create shopping lists based on retail chain’s with which Easy Shopping is integrated with. They can assign friendly names to identify those lists. This list would essentially contain all the items the user wants to buy. They can perform activities like search for products, filter them based on categories, view product info, manufacturer info, product reviews, availability before they actually add to the list.
2. Store navigation using store maps
Once the user is at a store they can pull up the app. The app smartly recognizes the location of the user and brings up the shopping list appropriately. If the users have multiple shopping lists for the same retail chain, the app shows a list of shopping lists from which the user can select. After that if the user needs to locate a product they can simply click on the “navigate to” button. This would essentially guide them visually to the correct aisle. This feature will be especially useful for physically challenged people and also aids in faster shopping by avoiding search time and effort.
Whenever the layout of the store changes, the super markets will need to send the updated information to the app. Also for locating a particular item the app can make use of crowd-sourced information where other users indicate location information.
3. Self-checkout using your smart device
This feature will allow users to scan the items using their smartphone cameras before placing them in their cart. The user can modify (update/delete) the cart any time before the checkout.
After they shop for all the items they will be ready to checkout. Clicking on the pay button in the Easy Shopping app will pay for all the items in the cart using their credit card information configured previously. This is very similar to the self-checkout counters we see in most of the stores today.
4. Electronic Receipts
Once the user checks out the items in the cart and click on the pay button, the app will generate an electronic receipt. This receipt will be stored permanently on the user’s smart device and on the server and can be viewed/deleted anytime using Electronic Receipts feature.
Also this feature will be very useful in case if the user wants to return items or do price adjustments (i.e. after a customer has purchased a product if the price of that item reduces, then the customer can get a price match within a certain period from the date of purchase.) at the store. They will be able to easily pull up the receipt. This will eliminate paper receipts which essentially reduces the operational cost for retail chains.
5. Coupon passbook
Coupon passbook is basically a collection of all the coupons. The passbook will contain all the coupons of the stores it is integrated with. The user can also add coupons to the passbook either by taking a photo of the coupon or manually add the coupon code based on the retail chain. All the coupons in the passbook will automatically be purged by the app when it either expires or used.
As and when the user scans an item, if a coupon exists in the passbook it will automatically be applied to that item and the coupon will not be applied if it is invalid (expired/used). This way the users will never miss a coupon and need not maintain them & they’ll be able to save more money.
6. Product reviews integrated into app
This feature will allow the user to take advantage product reviews that will be integrated into the app. If the user wants to try out a product he/she can click on the reviews button integrated into the shopping list and read experiences of other users. They will also be able to share their experience about the product.
7. Voice assistant
Voice assistant is a feature that will allow users to give voice command inputs and outputs to perform actions in the app. This will be particularly useful for visually impaired people.
8. Expenditure analytics
Expenditure analytics will track users spending and provide them a visual representation on how much they are spending segregated by categories. This will help users to budget their finances.

Advantages

1. It increases the number of customers of the stores listed in easy shopping application due to the convenience that it offers to the shoppers of these stores, there by increasing the revenue for these stores.
2. It makes the shopping more efficient both time and effort wise.

Business Model

Easy shopping app will be backed by a SAAS ecommerce platform which integrates (XML, EDI, Flat File web service, etc.) with big retail chains like Walmart, Target, Sendiks, Pick & Save, for data such as product info, store info, promotions etc. This data will be stored/pulled based on the type of integration and deliver it to the customers. There will be a guaranteed increase in volume/sales at these retail chains and also reduced operational costs by features like self-checkout, electronic receipt and many others. These retail chains will pay a percentage (x %) per transaction to Easy Shopping. This app will be available as a free download on all major platforms like iOS, Android, Windows Phone.

Technology

From the technology perspective all the features will be exposed as a restful web service. Therefore the choices for that would be java web services and .NET WCF. And these services can be hosted on the cloud such as Amazon EC2 or Microsoft Azure, so that we can achieve scalability, performance, reliability and security.
Apps for different platforms will be built using their native frameworks for e.g. iOS will use xcode, android will use java, windows phone will use .net etc. This app will in turn consume all the web services to retrieve data for the users.

System Design

As per the figure, the user interacts with the smart device and the smart device in turn interacts with the application (web service) hosted on the cloud service provider such as Amazon EC2 by sending a soap request. In response to that the application will send back the requested information to the user. POD’s are the building blocks of any cloud data center where each pod contains an array of servers such as app server, file server, database server, batch server, search server etc. All the application code will be hosted on the app server’s, file’s will be on file server, database will reside in database server, all the batch processing such as nightly product loads, maintenance processes etc. will run on batch servers and search server will basically host search engine which will be used to do searches that will be supported by the easy shopping app.

References
[1] http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2012-03/video-smart-shopping-cart-future-follows-you-through-store

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