Diebold App Aims To Eliminate Supermarket Checkout Lines


diebold_appHey retailers, here’s a terrifying experiment to see just how honest your customers are: a mobile-enabled self-checkout concept from Diebold. Placing an awful lot of trust in shoppers, the solution from Diebold.  (Photo/caption: Yahoo.)

Much of the time, today, supermarket customers in stores with self-checkout systems save time. But sometimes they don’t – when, for example, they have too many barcode-free items that must be looked up, or when the system’s scale refuses to recognize that everything in the ‘checkout area’ is supposed to be there.

If one potentially difficult problem can be overcome, a new app from Diebold, a leader in self-service solutions since the early (1980’s) days of the bar code, could totally eliminate the issues that can make today’s self-checkout systems frustrating.

Officially launching this weekend at the National Retail Federation’s ‘BIG’ Show (Jan. 17-19) in New York, this mobile-enabled system will let shoppers scan items as they’re being moved from shelves to the shopping cart. Then, when shopping is finished, the consumer taps his or her app-containing smart phone at the self-service checkout, and a payment is made from the shopper’s mobile wallet. Then, the check-out machine will provide a receipt and can even function as an ATM, providing cash-back, too.

But what if the shopper ‘forgets’ to scan an item? Ay, as Shakespeare’s Hamlet said lo those many years ago, there’s the rub – the fly in the ointment, the sticking point. (The latter, in the old game of lawn bowls, is what ‘the rub refers to: A point where the lawn’s surface isn’t smooth to allow a bowled ball to pass smoothly.)

Diebold hasn’t announced a solution to that issue – a far-from-minor point that could, figuratively and literally, send this concept back to the drawing board.

Another issue is, of course, those items that aren’t bar-coded (usually because they need to be weighed and/or counted) and can’t, as a result, be scanned.

The early days of the bar code were plagued by similar problems – from developing the codes themselves (requiring an unprecedented level of cooperation among manufacturers and food retailers) to printing issues, through the overall cost of systems capable of reading universal product codes (UPCs).

As the web site barcoding.com sums it up, “On June 26, 1974, all the tests were done, all the proposals were complete, all the standards were set, and at a Marsh supermarket in Troy, Ohio, a single pack of chewing gum became the first retail product sold with the help of a scanner. Decades of schemes and billions of dollars in investments now became a practical reality.”

Not least because of the cost of installing new equipment, it took a while for the new system to get really settled in at the retail supermarket level: “In 1978 less than one percent of grocery stores nationwide had scanners,” Barcoding.com says. “By mid-1981, the figure was ten percent; Three years later it was 33 percent.”

Today, not only is every significant food retailer in the U.S. equipped with scanners, every food warehouse is, and distribution facilities for virtually every other kind of product depend on these codes for inventory handling and tracking.

How the ‘first step’ – the at-the-shelf item-count – issue will be resolved. But rest assured, it will be, and Diebold’s app, and undoubtedly others like it, will inadvertently do something magical for retailers: Cut their costs, without costing them much of anything. (The scanning-the-mobile-device issue should be a technically easy one to address by app creators, so their product is compatible with existing checkout scanners.).

Watch this space!

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