back to article Why ever leave home? Amazon wants to turn your kitchen into a shop

Amazon is testing a handheld barcode reader that'll scan stuff in your house so that you can create a shopping list of things you're running out of – that list being sent to Amazon's Fresh grocery delivery service, natch. The company said that its Dash tool, being put through its paces in an invitation-only trial program, will …


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  1. ratfox

    Prior art declaration

    A system or apparatus for automatically detecting the user is running low on eggs, using weight detectors or optical sensors on the egg tray in the fridge. The system can be configured to automatically order eggs from Amazon or any grocery delivery service.

    There. This post constitutes prior art, so this cannot be patented any more.

    1. frank ly

      Re: Prior art declaration

      Do you have a working model of such an apparatus? Oh, .... I'm being old fashioned again, sorry.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Prior art declaration

        Do you have a working model of such an apparatus?

        Does being married count?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Prior art declaration

      So long as you don't get all the products sent with he same day sell by dates or best before dates like some home delivery services I could see this being popular.

  2. Ole Juul

    What foods have a barcode?

    Meat? No. Eggs. No. Potatoes? No. Cornflakes? Yes! OK, I'll just have that then.

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: What foods have a barcode?

      I'm curious... What country do you live in and from whom do you purchase, or harvest apparently, your groceries that aren't cornflakes?

      The man that takes my cows and turns them into delicious chunks of food returns my portion of the cows in barcoded packages and sells the rest to others in similar barcoded packages. The hippies I buy my eggs from even have those 'Scan with your phone for our eggciting video' barcode(ish) looking things printed on their 100% recycled paper egg cartons. The video is not 'eggciting'.

      Had I not seen these things with my own eyes, and watched as they also processed credit card payments from tablets I would have doubted these people had ever seen computers. But they obviously have. I want to know where you are at that such things have not reached there. How are you sending messages out???

      1. Ralph B

        Re: What foods have a barcode?

        Well, it had been known.

        My problem with Amazon's plan is that when you've run out of something, you normally don't have anything to scan anymore, because the packaging has already gone in the trash.

        Maybe the plan is to have a paper-based list of items and their barcodes which you can scan within the proximity of the fridge. That might be easier than using a tablet, I suppose.

      2. AceRimmer

        Re: What foods have a barcode?

        We get the majority of our family groceries (eggs, meat, cheese, veg, bakery products) from the local market... nothing, has a barcode on it.

        I live in the UK

        FWIW our local market is typically cheaper and better quality than the supermarkets.

        1. Don Jefe

          Re: What foods have a barcode?

          I meant no offense. I was trying, and failing obviously, to be funny and the entire post was created pretty much as something to wrap my thoughts about the hippies I buy eggs from up with. The cow conversion man and the 'eggciting' video are true however. Apologies if I offended, that was not my intent.

          1. AceRimmer

            Re: What foods have a barcode?

            No offense taken! Although I think you achieved new levels in meta-sarcasm.

      3. sisk

        Re: What foods have a barcode?

        I'm curious... What country do you live in and from whom do you purchase, or harvest apparently, your groceries that aren't cornflakes?

        The butcher I get most of my meat from doesn't bother with barcodes. He's an old fashioned sort and hasn't upgraded his cash register since the 80s. I think he finally replaced his scale a couple years back because he was having to calibrate the old one twice a day. I get my meat from him because the grocery stores around here have been caught replacing sell by instead of disposing of meat that didn't sell and I know he doesn't do that.

        When I can I buy my eggs from some friends who keep chickens rather than from the store. They don't always have the excess to sell, but when they do their eggs taste better than the ones from the store, though they do tend to run a bit smaller. Needless to say they don't use barcodes, though the cartons they put the eggs in are reused from store bought eggs and usually have barcodes on them.

        My problem with Amazon's plan is that when you've run out of something, you normally don't have anything to scan anymore, because the packaging has already gone in the trash.

        A lot of people try to buy foodstuffs before they run out. Failing that you could always scan the package before you throw it away. You'd probably develop that habit fairly quickly if you were getting your groceries this way.

    2. Tom 38

      Re: What foods have a barcode?

      Eggs can have barcodes, although more commonly just a "best before" date - it's hard to retrain the chickens to draw the straight lines.

  3. JaitcH

    And people complain about the ...

    NSA/GCHQ? Why would anyone want to share this sort of stuff with Amazon, the outfit that steals underpaid employees wages, makes them wait - in their own time - to use the toilet or get security checked out of the building?

    Amazon is evil. Period.

    Until now I have found a pencil and paper, stuck on the fridge door, quite sufficient technology to make a shopping list.

    Here in SaiGon we have it even better. When I drive down to the local cho (peoples market) I pull up at my favourite store and the assistants immediately recognise me and remember what my usual needs are - no technology needed. Nearby merchants, whose eyes never stop roving, call out and try to do a deal, which is immediately bettered by my favourite store!

    The only drag with buying really fresh food is that the fish won't lie still, so the fishmonger whacks them across the head to keep them still until I get home.

    So away with your privacy invading technology, Amazon - and start paying your workers the proper rates.

    1. LarsG

      Re: And people complain about the ... @JiatcH

      I wouldn't worry about Amazon in the same light as the NSA or GCHQ.

      When they send me 'recommendations' or what interests me they never get it right, most of the time they recommend what I have already purchased and at other time they come up with the most bizarre suggestions.

      Amazon intel is severely lacking.

      1. Don Jefe

        Re: And people complain about the ... @JiatcH

        I have this nagging suspicion, based on press releases and conversations with the Palantir folks who have been lurking around trade shows I go to, that an Amazon 'recommended products' style system is what they've developed for the US intelligence community. You know 'Other people who searched for Jihad also liked 'LG 5150 3G Mobile Phone $14.99' and 'How can I tell if my virgins are genuine? By Usama bin Laden $21.95'.

        While my examples were whimsical, my point was not. I'm sure they've got suitably important sounding terms for the processes in their system that reflects its use in 'national security' affairs, I doubt it's as remotely useful as Amazon's system. Which you've printed out, is somewhat less than amazing in its usefulness. Amazon has limitless amounts of real, accurate data to use in refining their system and they still fuck it up all the time.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: And people complain about the ...

      That's the advantage of this system.

      You could stay home and have a note pushed through the door saying "we tried to deliver but you were out...." then you can wait a couple of days and drive to a delivery centre on an industrial park 30mins away to collect you order. By which time your fish has definitely stopped moving.

  4. Hagglefoot

    Computer says no

    And what happens when the deliveries stop, when you click the button and nothing happens, when the will to grab a shopping bag and walk along shelves picking produce has gone, and the need to feed yourself is totally in the control of the machine, will everyone be stuck inside their houses fearing to go outside because the drone says so. As Ideological as the future might sound what seems to be happening is its turning people into mindless drones who when the machine shuts down will shutdown too.

    1. Guus Leeuw

      Re: Computer says no

      Dear Hagglefoot,

      I would patent that if I were you... You're onto something there for quite a number of people already!



    2. Steven Roper

      Re: Computer says no

      A bloke by the name of E.M. Forster was about 100 years ahead of you, Hagglefoot. Look up a story titled "The Machine Stops" by the aforementioned Mr. Forster, for a chilling preview of the deadly future that awaits us. The truly stunning thing is, this story was written before World War 1!

      Utter dependence on technology to the point where humanity cannot survive without it - communication via mobiles and tablet PCs (which he calls 'plates'), the Internet, the inane and meaningless drivel of Facebook and countless blogs, the absence of any originality in art, and the fear of leaving one's domicile or going outside, are all predicted in this story with eerie and uncanny accuracy. We're closer to it these days than you might care to think.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: Computer says no

        Thank you Steven R, saved me the bother of looking it up. Have an 'up'.

    3. AceRimmer

      Re: Computer says no

      "And what happens when the deliveries stop, when you click the button and nothing happens"

      Happened already (about 100 years ago) when the middle classes stopped relying on domestic staff to do everything!

  5. Elmer Phud

    Nice little earner.

    As I do not just poke at a Tesco (or other store) app to get food and stuff I'm also not brand-loyal.

    I will use whatever shop is handy to me depending on what i need and where I am.

    I also spent a while teaching r'kids to check 'special' offers and other discounted or promotional things for value so also want to look to see whether 2 for 1 is better than 3 for 2. Plus there is the cost per unit issue where similar items might be labelled in Litres where another is marked in Kilos.

    Leaving it all to your kitchen when you have set it up with your loyalty card details for just the one provider is one hell of a mistake.

    I don't expect to see my fridge give a choice of supermarkets or trawl for best value - especiallly as many of my local shops provide the more regionalised foods. Why buy rice in a supermarket when the Indian shop sells it far cheaper?

    Or the corner shop is cheaper for onions and spuds than Tesco (frequently, the standard foods are cheaper elsewhere).

    Oh, and I don't really want to encourage more shit delivery drivers who are often so bad they must have even failed as mini-cab drivers.

  6. McHack


    Imagine this as a full-blown grocery store service. With Amazon's power, they can instantly search for all applicable available manufacturers' coupons. Do they need to be printed out, with a store then mailing in the batches so they get paid? Hey look, Amazon can print and ship stuff.

    They can also recommend specials, tell you what brands and sizes are cheapest per unit. There could be automatic substitution lists, from different cuts of meat, to either hot chocolate or cocoa, to random assortments of fresh fruits.

    For a nominal subscription fee and small delivery charge, you could get your groceries for almost to actually free. Heck, combining all the discounts, Amazon might end up giving you money!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    With Amazon Logistics (UK) you CAN'T leave home

    Parcel due between 7am and 9pm

    Tracking info says out for delivery, no more info...

  8. southpacificpom

    The dumbing down of society continues...

  9. Chris G

    Competition is healthy

    Maybe that's where Google's AI research will come in to it's own, installed in your kitchen/house it can decide what to order, look for coupons on line, recommend stores to order from, including via Amazon an even compare pricing and value in multiple weight/volume systems.

    It could charge a small commission to the chosen store and only cost you your demographics: eating, toiletry, cleaning habits etc. You would never have to go shopping again or leave the house with a remote work station.

    What a wonderful world we could live in.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: Competition is healthy

      Dear Amazon AI - stop delivering food. Start delivering toilet paper.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not happenin'!

    I like to shop at a variety of stores for grocery items. HEB, Houston City Market, Walmart, Kroger's, and then Amazon if I can't find something that I really want. Everything that I actually need I can find in a local store.

  11. skeptical i
    Black Helicopters

    Good for elders and invalids, though.

    It could free up the carers' time to do more actual CARE instead of schlepping for groceries (while those who use grocery shopping as a bonding/ social event can still do so). The downside is that people working as carers could see their hours cut if grocery shopping is taken off their to-do lists.

    Choppering in a pallet of fortified nutri-drink ....

    1. phil dude
      Thumb Up

      Re: Good for elders and invalids, though.

      add a feature to regulate medication taking, and they're onto a winner.

      I don't think making a carer's life easier is a problem as there are almost certainly many more people that need caring , than there are carers.

      The major problem is that family and relatives who care are typically invisible in all calculations for "social spending need", although in fact are probably a big market for this product.


  12. Eddy Ito

    I don't get it. Why do people need another limited utility device that has a microphone and barcode scanner? Couldn't this all just be done with a single smartphone app instead of getting a "Dash"? Personally, the Dash looks like something that will accidentally get lost under the sofa, behind the fridge, "Dad! The sink dispose-all is making funny noises again!", etc.

    1. Don Jefe


      It's a good question, but the answer is, depressingly, simple. The bulk of humanity prefers single purpose tools. The tech field has a well known fondness for products with broad utility, but even then a lot of that is economics and finance disguised as consumer empowerment.

      Take smartphones for example, or even tablets to a large extent. They aren't super customizable, extensible communications platforms with more computing power than I had in my first CAD workstation because the consumer wants that. Smartphones are those things because it's the only way mobile carriers can get you to pay 7-8x over voice service for all the full on data package that let's you watch porn and the Pope's Easter Sunday Mass simultaneously on split screens in the palm of your hand while having a voice call with your boss about the upcoming audit. Combining the Pope and porn, wirelessly, doesn't come cheap my friend.

      You've got to develop an insanely convoluted, excessively low margin operation with huge reach and infrastructure and subsidize it all by giving ~200 companies per mobile account a couple of pennies each. Otherwise your Galaxy S4 would cost about the same as a trip to the ISS.

      Everybody kind of accepts that, but look how hard all the carriers try to get their crap apps and software in your face so, maybe, they can share your money with 160 companies instead of 200. At scale, that's a lot of money.

      But ideally, you want a single use device that gives its user absolute control over whatever you tie it to. It's a hell of a lot better for company putting out the device, and outside of the tech savvy minority, it's what consumers want as well. It's the same reason consolidated home entertainment system remotes have always been a hole that companies toss money into so the bosses imbecile son can run a project. I had a Texas Instruments calculator in the early 80's that could work my cable box and people thought I was a warlock, or a Russian spy. It hasn't changed one bit (maybe you'd be a terrorist, instead of a Russian spy).

      Extensibility, modularity, cross compatibility, those things are, largely, what tech savvy folks think about, not the average consumer and people with scads of disposable income. The just love the idea of really expensive, single purpose things. They eat that shit up. They'll use stuff like that just because they can. It's just fantastic from a behavioral study standpoint. They're getting off by pressing a button that's charging them a premium for an activity they did yesterday that they didn't even consider the financial implications of. It's fabulous!

      I'll close with this. I've taken to lurking in the Best Buy stores in the greater DC area and watching the people who buy those tiny little plumbed in 1-cup Kcup coffee makers that are inset into the wall of your house. You know what I'm talking about? The thing is $1,000-$2,000 depending on the model, and I'm assuming anyone who buys one isn't the sort to run plumbing and electric to an appliance they've framed into the wall themselves. Fair assumption? I'm trying to kind of classify the market for such things, simply to satisfy my curiosity. It's intriguing.

      See, I've got plumbed in coffee makers in our office too. I get that. It's just easier and cleaner. But they're big ass commercial machines that you load with a No. 12 grain shovel and the coffee comes out into a big stainless steel bucket about the size of the propane tank on a fork truck and you fill up the insulated stainless carafes and take 18 cups back to your office at once. It's great, it's efficient, low waste, coffee in 50lb sacks is dirt cheap and the grounds make for way better traction in the snowy winter parking lot and the smell keeps the Canada Geese from shitting all over the campus. It's great! There's six of these things at the office, grand total was $6,500 installed and 50+ people drink designer coffee ground in our own design of bean grinder all day long, every day for about .22 cents a cup of $5.00 a bucket if that's your thing. Those shitty little things at Best Buy are more than 2x more expensive than your own coffee factory, waste is just insanel high, and you can't even fit a standard US size coffee mug in there, I tried.

      The fact I have seen 18 of those machines sold at four stores over a 15(ish) month long period prove that this Amazon gadget will not only appeal to people, they'll use it to buy coffee for their shitty little coffee makers.

      Holy shit! What Amazon really ought to do is have the standard, full feature model that retails for ($x), then have an an ad supported version with a big 'I'm feeling lucky!' button and something will be shipped right to your door. Genius!

      1. Tom 38

        Re: @Eddy

        It's a good question, but the answer is, depressingly, simple.

        830 words in 10 paragraphs simple?

  13. Peter Stone


    is E M Forster's story "The Machine Stops" popping into my mind every time I read an article like this, about an always connected system?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why not use your phone?

    I have a barcode scanner app... I must have not read the article. Is it a product for the mindless?

  15. Ralph B


    Who remembers the CueCat? That didn't end well. (Well, not for the Digital Convergence Corporation, but just fine for me. I indexed all my books with mine.)

    1. phil dude

      Re: CueCat

      I have a drawer full of them. One of them indexed my DVDs and also at least another one other indexed the colleges DVDs!!!


  16. HurdImpropriety

    Whist wait till Obama gets hold of this service , you will NOT be able to order anything unhealthy...

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