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SPIDER: Self-checkout Productivity Improvement by DEflection of Rejects

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000031468D
Original Publication Date: 2004-Sep-27
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2004-Sep-27
Document File: 3 page(s) / 33K

Publishing Venue

IBM

Abstract

Disclosed are a system and architecture to enhance the performance of state of the art Self Checkout stations used in retail stores by providing a conveyor system to facilitate checkout of problematic items. A means is described to convey problematic items to an attendant who can serve several checkout thus reducing effort, creating a less embarrassing experience for the shopper and speeding the checkout process.

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SPIDER: Self-checkout Productivity Improvement by DEflection of Rejects

Background

    Various types of Self-Checkout (SCO) stations process an increasing share of the retail transactions, speeding up customer service. Occasionally the consumer at the SCO needs assistance, and an operator is summoned to help. There is typically one operator to serve several SCOs, allowing labor cost reduction. However, this mode of operation and the configuration of the SCOs suffer from some disadvantages that hamper universal SCO adoption. Arguably, the most crucial disadvantage lies in the "customer embarrassment factor". If, for some reason, the automatic system fails to process a given item (e.g., the barcode was not recognized), the customer may feel that his/her lack of "technical savvy" is exposed. This in turn may cause embarrassment that will lead this consumer to avoid SCO in the future.

    A potential remedy calls for sorting all the items that are put on the conveyor (in the way similar to the existing checkout stations); The system identifies the items that can be processed automatically (using barcodes, RFID's, image analysis or other techniques), while problematic items are automatically routed to stations manned by the shop employees. This approach offers several advantages such as high throughput and lack of "embarrassment factor", but has to rely on an automatic device for scanning and recognizing various items. If such a device has to scan each item from all directions, it may require several cameras. This would drive up the hardware cost. If, for practical considerations, single camera is used, the customers will have to place all the items in the same way (say with the barcode facing up). Naturally, some customers will make mistakes and as a result automatic recognition rate will go down.

    Here we propose to combine the advantages of the existing, sate of the art SCOs, with the approach outlined above.

Summary of the invention:

    Present invention calls for the use of any of the existing SCOs, and improve on the way rejects are handled. In the present SCO, if an item cannot be processed by the machine after several attempts of the consumer, some kind of alarm is raised in order to draw attention of an operator who serves a given island of SCOs. The consumer has to wait until the operator will be free to attend and help him/her. This situation may be both time consuming and embarrassing.

    In order to avoid such situations, we propose to equip each SCO with a conveyor. Rejected items would be placed on the conveyor and deflected to the store operators (cashiers) for manual handling. This approach is most readably applicable to SCO station equipment with conveyors to begin with (e.g., IBM Full Lane SCO). However, external conveyors can be added also to the SCO used for bagging goods (such as IBM Express and Express Plus SCOs).

    To summarize the new scenario: Customers will operate SCO stations in a conventional manner, but in the case of pro...