What innovation is happening at the tills? What are the technology changes at self-scanning machines?
The food & drink industry is devoting huge resources in the drive towards a circular economy and sustainability in packaging and processes. An extensive study by the European Patent Office (EPO) study revealed that Europe and US together account for an incredible 60% of all patenting activity worldwide related to plastic recycling and bioplastic technologies. We have considered innovations in plastics technology and sustainability. In this article, we ask the question what is the impact of the innovations in packaging having or likely to have at the check-out tills? We show how technology trends can be picked up early from patent publications and enable monitoring competitor activity as well getting your business ready for the impact of technology changes and using this to add to your value proposition for your customers.
The technology trends
To get answers to these questions, we looked at the relevant published patent specifications as a source of information for this review. We carried out a search based on scanning/self-service/POS technologies and packaging with patent publications from 2019 onwards.
The who, the where and the what?
Countries and companies leading the way in innovations at the check-outs
We focused on the time period 2019-2021. As can be seen from the chart of Top countries filing patent applications in this technology area, China and the US are the leading countries in innovations in this technology area over this period.
We looked at who are the companies that are filing these patent applications; we can see that the top filers in this area are Digimarc Corporation, a company that provides product using digitization featuring digital watermarks and other unique identifiers combined with product intelligence in the cloud. XARD Group PTY Ltd., a fintech company specialising in smartcards, Service Trading company Inc, Omnicell Inc, Visa International Service Association, NCR Corp, Westview Research LLC, Langen H J Paul, Exascope Inc Co. Ltd., and Toshiba Tec KK. During this period of 2019-2021, we can see from the chart below that the top companies to whom patents were granted were Digimarc Corp, Omnicell Inc, PayPal Inc, Hangzhou Sovell Technologies, Sichuan Yiging Intellegent, ITAB Commercial Equipment China, Guangzhou Pointsmart Tech Co., Wincor Nixdorf INT GMBH and Langen H J Paul.
Patent applications filed in China top the numbers of patent applications filed. The type of innovations that are the focus in China include robots carrying shopping baskets that can carry out automatic checkout while the shopper adds items to the basket as well as shops that do not have any check-out assistant and all the check-out scanners are based on automated systems and Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based systems.
Another example of the type of innovations that are being worked on in the area of check-out and packaging in a supermarket can be seen from the patent specification of International Application No. WO2021/214748A1 filed by an applicant in Israel, is entitled: “A METHOD AND DEVICE FOR AUTOMATING IDENTIFICATION, PAYMENT, PACKAGING AND DELIVERY OF ITEMS PURCHASED IN A PHYSICAL STORE”
This invention is specifically aimed at technology for advanced checking out, packaging and delivery of goods purchased during in-store shopping. The customer enters the store with a shopping trolley and uses a customer interface to obtain access to that customer’s unique data and associates it with the customer’s selected shopping trolley. After completing the shopping, the customer leaves the shopping trolley with the selected items for purchase, in a designated part of the store and the customer can exit the store, empty-handed and without stopping to pay! A shopping assistant completes the stages of the payment and packing and delivery to the customer, based on the unique customer data which has been pre-approved by the client for authorising method of payment and delivery.
One example of the patents granted to Digimarc Corporation in the US, is European Patent No. EP2751748 B entitled “METHODS AND ARRANGEMENTS FOR IDENTIFYING OBJECTS”
This invention aims to overcome the disadvantages of barcodes such as one we can all relate to, i.e. the difficulty of finding a barcode on some packaging, a particular problem for self-service check-outs and leads to delays. In addition, for some items, there can be challenges with getting the scanning equipment to successfully read the barcode due to uneven surfaces.
In this invention, the product packaging is digitally watermarked over most of its extent to facilitate high-throughput item identification at retail checkouts. Crinkles and other deformations in product packaging can be optically sensed, allowing the crinkled surfaces to be virtually flattened for ease of identification. A variety of other features, e.g., involving marked conveyor belts, coloured illumination clues, expedited checkout for trusted shoppers, expert bagging systems, etc., are also described.
In summary, it is inevitable that the innovation in bioplastics materials and sustainability will also impact on the check-outs and there will be further technology shifts to address this. This review shows how searching published patent literature can help you to see the technology changes ahead resulting from the push towards sustainability and leverage competitive advantage for your business.
The full EPO report can be found here.
This article was prepared by HGF Patent Director Marie Walsh.