Scanning shop shelf after shop shelf in the search for that elusive item can be a frustrating task, particularly if it turns out the item is out of stock. This isn’t just annoying, but it can also mean lost sales as customers leave without buying anything at all. In a bid to help both customers and shopkeepers, Germany-based findbox GmbH has developed the findbox, a kiosk-like device that scans items and packaging, lets shoppers know if a replacement is in the shop and guides them to the right peg.
To operate the findbox, you take an example of the thing you want, like an ink cartridge, light bulb, or item packaging, and place it on the kiosk tray, where a multi-camera system scans multiple images. These are used to build up a 3D mesh, which the findbox analyzes to look for colors, text, logos, icons and shapes that it uses to search an online database for a match.
According to findbox, it takes only three seconds for the system to find a match, and if none is found, a manual search function using an onscreen keyboard is available. Failing that, findbox can suggest alternatives or offer to have the item shipped to your home. It can also suggest complementary items.
Available as an optional extra is findbox’s LightGuide. This is an "intelligent price tag" linked wirelessly to the findbox kiosk. On each product hook in the shop is a small, self-contained LED light. When findbox makes a match, the appropriate light switches on, helping guide the shopper to the item. The LED labels are cable-free, relying on wireless radio (868 MHz) communications, with the onboard battery estimated to last from 3 to 5 years, depending on usage.
Taking things a step further, findbox also offers an app, so shoppers can snap a picture of the desired item and upload it, then the online findbox database can try to find a match and report at which shop it’s available. In addition, the company says that the findbox system can automatically keep track of a store’s inventory, help in properly re-shelving stock, and reporting when an item needs to be reordered.
"Findbox offers an unrivaled service without which no retail store will be able to survive in the future," says Michael Unmüßig, co-founder and managing director of findbox. "Just think of the buzz word Internet of Things that includes RFID technology. With findbox we go an essential step further and close the gap between real and virtual shopping in an intelligent way."
The findbox system costs between €200 and €300 (US$260 and US$388) per month.
The video below introduces findbox.