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Supermarkets Use Technology to Enhance Shopping Experience

Supermarkets are using technology to get shoppers to spend more time and money at their stores. VOA's Mil Arcega reports that if your local supermarket doesn't have wi-fi access, interactive store maps or TV screens in its shopping carts -- it may be only a matter of time.

The supermarket of the past is racing toward a high tech future. And clever marketers are starting with their youngest consumers. Publix Supermarkets in the U.S. city of Atlanta, Georgia have begun testing TV Karts for toddlers. Moms can shop in peace while their kids ride along watching their favorite TV shows.

Marketers say the TV Karts generate revenue by keeping children entertained so parents can shop longer.

If the TV screen is not enough to hold a child's attention, parents can drop them off at a play center at Wegman's supermarket in Virginia.

There is adult supervision so parents can scan the grocery aisles without having to rush.

And there are high tech toys for grownups, too.

This computerized tablet is called the "Shopping Buddy". The miniature computer keeps a running tab of every item in the shopping cart. Consumers can e-mail their grocery list and the device will let them know if any of the items are on sale. It also shows the location of the products.

Stop and Shop marketing manager Mike Grimes says the device can even take a deli order from customers on the other side of the store and let them know when it's ready for pick up. "The shopping buddy has two primary benefits to shoppers. The first -- saving money, extra savings. The other thing it saves is time."

If you really want to save time, "Veggie Vision", a computerized scale and camera, identifies various fruits and vegetables and automatically prices them for you.

And when it's time to pay, a finger may be all you need. It takes just a few seconds for a machine to identify your unique fingerprint and debit your account. Two thousand stores in the U.S. now have the "Pay by Touch" biometric technology. Consumers sign up by providing a bank account number and a fingerprint.

Some European stores are testing tiny radio transmitters on their goods. The wireless devices can tell if a product is nearing its expiration date or needs to be restocked.

And someday, as an I.B.M. commercial shows us, those transmitters will mean you may not even need your fingerprint to make a purchase.