Look out: Smart store terminals that know all about you!

February 2, '09; BANGALORE:  Anand Parthasarathy checks out the new concept design that Intel has brought to India: smart store terminals where you can do self check out, examine new merchandise based on your past shopping patterns and pay by mobile phone.

Consider this scenario. As you walk into your neighbourhood department store or supermarket, a scanner at the entrance, has 'swiped' your loyalty card (it has an embedded RFID chip). As you approach the clothing section of the store, a futuristic -looking console topped by a large display screen, springs to life, greeting you by name saying in rolling letters, "Have you looked at the new range of jeans we have just launched. Here is the selection in your preferred size and style -- 28 inch boot cut. And we have special price for a loyal customer -- YOU!"

Welcome tomorrow's shopping experience, where smart store terminals know you, your preferences, shopping patterns, your size and favourite colour -- and what you bought last time. The terminals gets all this info, even as you enter; the radio frequency chip embedded in your loyalty card has ' told' the scanner at the entrance which has passed on the data to dozens of point of sale terminals all over the store. You bought some formal shirts last time and want another in the same style and size? No hassle, the terminal will bring up your past transaction and show you all the shirts that meet your need. You can flop through various options and colours by touching the screen and when you have made your selection you can pay for it by any one of many means: swiping a card or just sending an sms from your mobile phone. Your purchase is ready to take away.

Intel has fuelled its new store terminal concept wit the Core 2 Duo mobile processor and the first models have been realised for it by frog design, a San Francisco based innovation firm. Unveiled a week ago at a retail trade convention in New York, the terminal will soon be on display at trade shows in India. Combined with Intel's vPro and Active Management technologies, the system promises 70 percent savings in power over comparable functionality today as well as secure ant-theft features. The terminal ' wakes' up only when the movement sensor detects that a customer is approaching and promptly goes to sleep when no one is near. Good graphics and MPEG-2 decoders, enhance the imaging capabilities of the LCD screen -- and elements like card swipers, bar code readers can be mixed and matched for different functions.

The Indian organised retail trade is ready for such technology says Intel India's Sanat Rao, Managing Director ( Emerging Markets Embedded Computing Division. But he also sees a role in the high end of the unorganised sector.

Many IT majors, not just Intel, have been configuring POS systems that indirectly end up selling PCs, printers and scanners. But most of these are souped up electronic cash registers. Intel has its own designs for this this at the last two editions of the Embedded Systems Conference in Bangalore. Now it seems the company is pursuing a vision for retail trade that boldly goes where no IT player has gone before. High Tech kirana shops anyone?