During our first term of Systems Design Engineering, four other students and I worked together to develop an improved retail solution. The issue we saw was the amount of time that is wasted by people in grocery stores. They must travel around filling their carts, queue up and wait for a cashier, unload their cart, scan their items, reload their cart, and then travel to their car and unload their cart once again. This was an obviously inefficient system, so we decided to improve it.
We followed the engineering design process from problem definition and idea generation all the way to prototyping and evaluation. Our entire process is outlined in this report. The process and final product are also explained in this presentation.
The final solution we came up with was a shopping cart that scans radio frequency identification (RFID) chips on items as they are placed in the cart. The cart keeps track of the items it contains and allows the user to pay as they leave the store, without having to remove the items from their cart.
I developed the prototype for this design. It consisted of an RFID scanner purchased off of eBay, some RFID tags, and a program written in Java. The RFID scanner connected to the computer and posed as a USB keyboard to input the information it scanned. The software would take the inputted code and use it to determine the item being bought. It maintained a running tally of everything the user purchased, calculated taxes, etc.