Would you change the food you bought if you knew more about it? The Supermarket of the Future, the new flagship store of Coop Italia, has been built on the principle that you would, with interactive tables, smart shelves and real time data visualizations providing food, deals and cooking info.
The store makes use of technology developed by Carlo Ratti Associati (CRA), first demonstrated in prototype form at World Expo 2015. Where Amazon and UK supermarket Sainsbury's have focused their future store visions on making the purchasing process simpler, the Supermarket of the Future's aim is to help us make more informed and more sustainable decisions about what we buy, as well as to encourage the use of fresher, local products by educating consumers about the impacts and availability of foodstuffs.
"Every product has a precise story to tell," explains CRA founder Carlo Ratti in a press release. "Today, this information reaches the consumer in a fragmented way. But in the near future, we will be able to discover everything there is to know about the apple we are looking at: the tree it grew on, the CO2 it produced, the chemical treatments it received, and its journey to the supermarket shelf."
Based in the Bicocca area of Milan, Italy, the Coop Italia store has a footprint of 1,000 sq m (10,800 sq ft). It augments traditional physical aspects of supermarkets, like product displays, with digital elements. In this way, it is said to make the store more like an open-air market, insomuch as the vendor is able to provide extra information to buyers about the products they are selling.
To begin with, interactive tables are used to display more than 6,000 products. These employ Microsoft Kinect sensors to detect when a customer is moving their hand towards an item and then automatically present information about the product on a mirror display above, including nutritional properties, place of origin, presence of allergens and waste disposal guidance. Related products, product promotions and other practical purchase data can also be shown.
Store promotions and detailed product information can also be viewed on touchscreen displays described by project partner Accenture as acting like "augmented labels."
Additional store information is provided to customers via a 20-m (66-ft) long wall of 54 monitors. This is used for notifying customers about things like special offers, cooking suggestions and daily top selling products.
CRA suggests that, in the future, a free exchange area could be added to the store. Here, customers could trade home-made products, enabling everyone to act as both a producer and a consumer, while furthering the analogy of the store as a market.
The Supermarket of the Future store opens this week.