I had (it wasn’t for me) to go to a store earlier to buy chocolate. The place was heaving with people and it was impossible to get around because there were people everywhere. When I finally go to the checkouts to pay for the chocolate I had to queue for ten minutes. It occurred to me that it was an incredibly inefficient system and despite the fact there were a good number of self service checkouts it remained incredibly difficult to get through.
So what is the best way to get rid of all the queues? One solution for the future is having every single item tagged with an individual RFID tag and having RFID tags in phones so that you can walk over a sensor in the floor and the cost is debited from your phone bill. It would be a simple way of payment but I think that it will be years until it gets implemented.
There are, ironically, various mathematical formulas applied to getting things queued correctly so that they are able to go in and out as quickly as possible and mathematicians have actually dedicated quite a lot of time to developing theories on how to lay things out but I think that it is relatively simple: do it the Apple way.
Currently the is an Apple Store app for iPhones that allows you to order all the Apple products that you want before you go to the Apple Store. When you arrive you are then presented with the product and if you’ve paid in advance you instantly walk out with everything.
Another option is to install barcode scanners into trolleys and baskets so that you scan each item as you put it into the trolley. You could then pay at the end (or have it set up as you go along) and that would probably be equally efficient to being able to walk over RFID mats.
I’m not the world’s most organised person, so I tend to be quite good at losing things and then not being able to find them. I sometimes end up spending hours looking for something – be it physical or digital. Sometimes I lose something like a computer mouse and I won’t find it for a couple of days (or someone else will come along after a couple of hours and find it straight away). Sometimes I spend ten minutes trying to find a bit of code I wrote because I gave it a stupid name and saved it in a stupid place.
However, the future will not be like this. In the future everything will have an RFID chip (pictured). These chips contain a number that can be linked through a database to that object. For instance, I might have object 1 being a coffee mug, object 2 being a kettle and object 3 being a toaster. The chips are (and will be) so cheap to make that it is affordable to even put them in food packaging.
I would then have RFID readers fitted everywhere in my house – the front door, doors to rooms, the fridge, draws, cupboards, etc. Each of these readers would report to a central computer all the items that it has picked up. Then, for instance, if I lost my coffee mug (which would be a disaster) I could open up a program and search for an object named coffee mug. The program would then look in a database of objects and find that my coffee mug is object 1, and that the last RFID reader to have picked up my coffee mug was the kitchen door – I would then know that my coffee mug had to be in the kitchen.
Of course this could be extended dramatically to more than just finding things because RFID is such an easily adoptable platform – the chips themselves are constantly becoming cheaper to produce and readers can cost as little as $50. Stores are beginning to look at putting RFID chips into food packaging so you can just walk up to checkout with all your items which are then automatically scanned rather than everything being scanned individually. Then, when you get home your fridge looks at all the items to check if any are past their sell by date and warns you of this.
Perhaps I am being lazy imaging a future where I can search for everything in my house – but I don’t think that anyone can deny it would be useful.