do you want a server farm with that bottle of milk?

This is kind of embarrasing, but what the hell, i'll share it anyway.

While I'm generally messy, disorganised etc., I have created order in one particular part of my life: the 'master shopping list'.

this sounds like the nerdiest, most anal thing imaginable. People -- even nice people like other programmers -- think this is a freakish and terrible thing to use. Well, stick it Jack. The list works a treat!

what i've got is an excel spreadsheet that contains every item we buy from the grocery store. The spreadsheet is laid out in the exact same order that the products are located in the store.

this master list makes it much easier to prepare for a shopping trip, and makes it almost impossible to forget things when you're there.

The first problem this list solves is those rare items that you run out of much less often than you go shopping. it's so easy to forget that you're almost out of toothpaste, or deoderant.

the biggest benefit of this list was something quite unexpected. thanks to this list we now only need to go shopping once every 3 or 4 weeks. And when we do go, the trips are quick, and stress-free. (dairy products and fresh fruit n veg are a different, much faster, weekly, task)

The question is: do i want to take this nerdy list one step further? the next thing would be to add a "minimum shelf level" for each item, as well as a re-order level. For example, "reorder pizza bases if there's less than 2 remaining -- and restock them up to a level of 5." It's too nerdy... yet tempting.

but it doesn't end there... oh no. there's three more steps i can see beyond that.

I have this idea (i've mentioned before) where I fix barcode scanners in strategic places around the house.

Each time i throw something in the bin, i scan the barcode using a scanner next to the bin. [Forget RFID -- that's a different blog entry ;-)] The stock level is decremented. Magic. When I first collect the groceries, i scan them all -- incrementing the stock levels as I go.

Each scanner has a dedicated task, depending on its position. The one next to the bin for example only decrements stock. The one on the kitchen bench only increments stock. Usability is a no brainer. No buttons to press, no menu options to pore through. (Wait -- Perhaps I just scan my receipt from the grocery store -- and use OCR to find the SKU codes and increment all the stock levels).

Well the next step is to automatically fill out the shopping list, based on the consumption to date. But better than that -- I'd email the shopping list to the local grocery store.

No -- better still -- email a local delivery agent, whose job it is to source all the goods on the order, from whatever store will give the best prices. If they constantly receive such orders from households in their area, the delivery agent can optimise and amortise their deliveries, effectively solving the last mile problem.

But there's a step beyond that. Rather than giving the local delivery guy a monopoly on supply, the orders could go to an online exchange, where they are effectively auctioned off, automatically, to the lowest bidder. (Or where they are used as bids against inventories put up by various local businesses). The inventories of local suppliers, the requisitions of local consumers and the services of delivery agents, could all be brought together in one fluidic online marketplace.

Of course you don't want to have just one market place. You want a series of market places, which all compete to provide the best three-way matches between consumer, producer and supplier.

Hey, do you want a server farm with that bottle of milk?

See also... the 'domestic bits' series from secretGeek ;-)


My book "Choose Your First Product" is available now.

It gives you 4 easy steps to find and validate a humble product idea.

Learn more.

(By the way, I read every comment and often respond.)

Your comment, please?

Your Name
Your Url (optional)
Note: I may edit, reuse or delete your comment. Don't be mean.