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In the New York Times this morning, technology columnist David Pogue offers his assessment of the Ikan system now being piloted by D’Agostino’s.

Excerpts:

• “The mission of this $400 device is to eliminate trips to the grocery store. The hardware component is a bulbous bar code scanner, dressed up in Any-Décor White and mounted on a countertop stand, an undercabinet bracket or a wall mount. It offers a color screen on the front, a laser scanner underneath and a Wi-Fi antenna inside that connects to your home wireless network.

“Each time you’re about to throw away an empty container — for ketchup, cereal, pickles, milk, macaroni, paper towels, dog food or whatever — you just pass its bar code under the scanner. With amazing speed and accuracy, the Ikan beeps, consults its online database of one million products, and displays the full name and description … After a few days of this, you can review the list online at Ikan.net - and if everything looks good, click once to have everything delivered to your house at a time you specify.

• “Reactions to this gizmo are all over the map. Old-school homemakers may consider it a silly redundancy. How much more effort is it, they ask, to maintain a handwritten list? And isn’t going to the grocery store more than just a time drain? Isn’t it also a little outing, a small source of pride and accomplishment, an opportunity for social interaction?

“Other people can’t believe the amount of time this system saves. You’ve just compressed a two-hour weekly errand into about 10 minutes. All you have to do is approve the illustrated, error-proof online shopping list, and then let somebody else battle the traffic, haul the bags and pay for the gas.”

• Saying that the service is not quite as well integrated as Peapod’s, nut nevertheless calling it the food equivalent of Netflix, Pogue writes: “Most of the Ikan’s weaknesses stem from its fledgling status, not from design or concept problems. It’s incredibly solid and speedy in performing its central functions: recognizing your home network, identifying products you’re scanning and transmitting them instantly to the Web. Even teenagers won’t forget to add things to the list, since it’s so much fun to scan them.

“But the Ikan’s appeal will grow as the company develops partnerships with more store chains, as the features grow and as the steep price goes down.”

And, he writes, “the time savings are truly gigantic. For a delivery charge of $6 to $8, you save a couple of hours a week and you gain incredible convenience. At the very least, you can use the home delivery option for staples — the stuff you always buy — and visit the actual store just for the elective items, or things you want to hand-pick.”

KC's View:
In other words, the future.

To quote a famous movie line, “Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon…”

The question is, if you are a retailer or a supplier, how do you begin preparing for this kind of inevitable technology, and the shifts in consumer behavior that it will bring? Because you cannot afford to ignore it.