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IBM Goes Shopping With Its Digital Tools

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RALEIGH — Grocery shopping can be a hassle with comparing prices, standing in line, even writing the check. IBM's Retail Store Solutions group in Raleigh is working to make grocery shopping more convenient.

Grocery shelves with electronic price tags may soon be found in all stores. Prices can be changed instantly by radio from the store's central computer.

"So when you see the shelf tag with $2.99 on it, you can be sure that is the price that will ring up when you go to the checkout scanner and check out the groceries," Mike Pierce with IBM Retail Store Solutions.

Shoppers can even check out price per unit. At the checkout counter, a compact high speed printer speeds up the process.

"See how fast the paper will print coming out of the printer," Pierce said. "So if you had a long receipt, it would come out in a hurry."

It even fills out and reads the check, so all the shopper has to do is sign it.

Shoppers are given the scanner when they start shopping, and each item and price is stored in memory.

"They do their shopping and scanning and put it in their basket," Pierce said. "When they get to the checkout lane, all they do is plug this into the system there, pay their money and they're finished."

Another new invention is veggie vision, which can even differentiate between an orange and a tangerine. The optical scanner can distinguish between different fruits and vegetables even down to varieties.

If a shopper does not want to walk the aisles, a Workpad is the answer. It contains a complete grocery list based on the person's buying history. The order is placed electronically, and the shopper can pick up their groceries when they want. The supermarket of the future could be just a corner away.

IBM says some of its new technology is in limited use in the U.S. and Great Britain.