By Christine Kern, contributing writer
Walmart published patent for system of connected sensors to monitor product consumption.
In a recently published patent spotted by CB Insights, retail giant Walmart describes a system of connected sensors that could monitor customers' product consumption. The idea is that sensors would be attached to products and rely on a variety of technology, like radio frequencies, Bluetooth, conventional barcodes, and RFID tags and could be used to manage restocking and fulfilment needs.
According to the report, Walmart is exploring options rather than suggesting that any one sensor type would work best. These tags would all track how often a product is used and where it's located in a home. In addition, the sensors could help Walmart target product marketing of other items based on their current purchases and to tailor marketing plans to individual customers. For example, a tag reader could be installed on a refrigerator to scan each item inside and track when food is going bad or needs to be reordered. In other scenarios, an RFID system could analyze when a person is picking up their toothbrush to estimate how much toothpaste is left and automatically reorder it when necessary.
According to Engadget, Walmart filed for the patent last October, though there is no guarantee that the retailer will ever follow through with its implementation. The system differs from Amazon’s Dash button in that customers would have to add some kind of internet-connected tag on products for it to monitor usage. Amazon’s gadget simply allows customers to press a button to replenish an existing order, while Walmart’s version would reorder automatically based on usage. And Engadget says that the Walmart patent also includes a feature that allows for tracking of expiration dates and product recalls, which would be handy for customers.