Albert Heijn to test connected fridge magnet

Friday 14 April 2017 | 15:03 CET | Background
Dutch supermarket chain Albert Heijn has announced a test with a connected fridge magnet. The appliance, developed by Hiku, can record items for the shopping list with a built-in microphone and laser barcode scanner. The device synchronizes over Wi-Fi with the ‘Appie’ smartphone app. Ahold will test the service with 200 Albert Heijn customers to gather experience, before deciding on further steps. 
Hiku is a startup based in San Jose, CA. It has developed the device while the voice recognition is supplied by Nuance Communications. So far, the service works with Walmart and delivery service Peapod in the US. The solution is also marketed in France as Izy by Chronodrive.

The device must be connected to Wi-Fi at home and set up with the Hiku app, or a customer loyalty app if that is available. Everyone may add items, either by using voice control or by scanning a barcode on a product. Hiku synchronizes the shopping lists across devices. Multiple persons in one household can see the same shared list after logging in on the same account. The apps have been launched for Android and iOS.

In the Netherlands, Albert Heijn was one of the first food retailers who developed a mobile app. The app shows the weekly promotions, all items on sale and thousands of recipes. Linked to the customer loyalty card, the app can show suggestions based on purchase history, synchronize shopping lists between different users on the same account and list items by corridor in the physical store. Albert Heijn also runs its own online ordering and delivery service. 

The Appie smartphone app also comes with voice activation and a bar code scanner. However, the Hiku has a built-in laser scanner that is more accurate than the camera-based scanner in the app. Another potential advantage is the fact that the Hiku device is always in the kitchen and always listening. A spokeswoman estimates that finding and unlocking the phone, opening the app and accessing the service can take 20 seconds.

Cost could however prove to be a drawback. Hiku sells the device directly through its website for USD49. Although volume buyers will probably pay less than that, they pay for a device that replicates features that are available in a free app. 

For the test, Albert Heijn has selected 100 customers who regularly visit a store and 100 customers who order online. Those 200 customers will receive a free Hiku device. The trial will last two months. After that the Hiku accounts will be deactivated, the spokeswoman explains. Nothing is decided – the test is meant to gather feedback.

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