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Shopping in the future: The tech behind retail

How did we ever buy anything without all this technology?

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1 of 11 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Intelligent Assistants

These voice-activated assistants will become the hub of all your shopping activities in your home, be it asking for what you should make or order for dinner, or providing suggestions for what movies you should rent over the weekend. They will be embedded in virtually every electronic product you own, so there will be no escaping them.

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2 of 11 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

RFID

Radio Frequency ID, or RFID, is a technology that is going to increase in use more and more especially when we start to see it used in staple products by the consumer, not just for stock keeping purposes. By tagging food items, a refrigerator or even your smartphone will know how long an item has been on the shelf and can even make suggestions of what you need to cook for dinner that night. It will also know what products to re-fill, automatically.

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3 of 11 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Internet of Things

Home appliances like coffee makers and espresso machines will be able to order their own supplies based on your preferences because they will be connected to the Internet via your Wi-Fi network. They will be able to adjust brew characteristics based on type of the bean and also the roast using technologies like RFID and other product scanning techniques.

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4 of 11 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Intelligent Order Fulfillment

Whether it is through subscription services like Amazon Prime Pantry or using simple devices for on-demand orders like Dash and Dash Wand, buyers will never again have to worry about running out for essential supplies like laundry detergent. Or Cheez-Its.

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5 of 11 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Robots, Everywhere

Whether it is replacing the aproned stock boy or the cashier out in front, robots are going to pervade all aspects of brick and mortar. You may not interact with them directly but they will almost certainly be there behind the scenes.

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6 of 11 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Drones and Autonomous Vehicles

Why pay a delivery man or engage UPS or Fedex when you can get a robot to do all the work? All the attention seems to be on drones for on-demand, light package transfer but it is just likely we are going to see delivery vans -- almost certainly electrically powered -- that have no drivers whatsoever, paired with robots that bring the package right to your front door.

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Rideshare Delivery Services

In addition to online retailers owning their own delivery infrastructure components, such as drones, autonomous vehicles and traditional delivery trucks, companies like Amazon are likely to make more use out of the ride-share model by employing people willing to use their own vehicles to deliver goods, as UberEATS does today for restaurants.

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8 of 11 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

More Smartphones

While voice-activated intelligent systems like Alexa are going to be more popular, people still like to shop visually -- and the screen that has everyone's attention is their smartphone because it is the one that they always have with them.

Smarphone apps will get much more sophisticated, incorporating aspects of other technologies such as augmented reality, computer vision, voice control and also competitive Wi-Fi analytics and GPS.

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Wi-Fi Positioning and Marketing Analytics

This invisible technology allows retail stores to understand many things about their customers all based on their movement. Your smartphone, whether it is attached to a Wi-Fi network or not, is transmitting a signal unless it is in airplane mode with Wi-Fi turned completely off. Intelligent access points in retail locations can determine if you are walking in and out of a store and can also figure out what part of the stores you are loitering in by using signal strength and triangulation. This technology is already in wide use by companies like Apple in their retail stores.

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10 of 11 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Computer Vision

"Alexa, do I look fat in this dress?"

That's a question you might be asking your intelligent assistant in a few years, thanks to intelligent cameras that use computer vision technology which can take precise meaturements of your body in order to correctly size clothes which you can order online.

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11 of 11 Jason Perlow/ZDNet

Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality, or AR, will allow retailers and product manufacturers to provide you with enhanced information about the products you are actually looking at in the store. Want to know what to do with that box of pasta or tomato sauce right in front of you? You won't even need to ask, a recipe and a video showing you how to make your favorite dish will pop up right on the screen.

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