Smart Shopping Using Ubiquitous Computing Information Technology Essay

Ubiquitous Computing or Pervasive Computing is the fourth wave and future of computing. The idea behind the ubiquitous computing is that it will become the part of our lives and will be integrated into everyday objects and activities i.e. computers will be everywhere in everything to the extent that the people interact with the computers and will not realize that they are actually interacting with the computer. There are many descriptions that have been used how to describe Ubiquitous Computing. One interesting idea was given by Mark Weiser (Founder of Ubiquitous Computing, XEROX PRAC) is that “Our computers should be like our childhood: an invisible foundation that is quickly forgotten but always with us, and effortlessly used throughout our lives.”[1]


Many applications are already being explored and are in practice by supermarkets and retail chains such IKEA, METRO, WallMart, H&M etc. The applications used are so as to enrich the shopping experience and to make the user life easier during shopping and to make a modern way of shopping by using devices example mobile shopping, Personal Shopping Assistance PSA in the form of PDA or using Web 2.0 Mashups etc. Even with all these technologies they have still a lot of limitations and that is why they are not very popular among the users [3].

This paper considers the possibilities and implications of using Ubiquitous Computer to analyze the customer support systems that defines a broader view of the shopping process and realizing systems that support the interest of the user and study their behaviour and actions [3].

2.1 Example Scenario:

We can take the example of an application which is currently used by H&M as shown in the Figure1 below.

Figure1. H&M Fashion Studio Application


Their application uses the Web 2.0 Mashups Technology and allowing users to choose different type of clothes and accessories and also allow them to choose a range of available models. The learning time of this application is very less and easy to understand and he/she can do different kind of experiments what he wants to wear without having to try and put the clothes in real. This application is also very useful for elderly person as they can easily select a variety of choices and can buy the one which they like.

2.2 System Diagram

Figure2 Overall System Diagram

Source (

As we can see from the Figure2 that the user need to access the website and add the product/item in the shopping cart and once that done he only need to pay for it through the internet using a secure gateway and it will be directly delivered to his/her home.

2.3 Problems

There are some limitations of this application. The user can only use a defined range of items and accessories and he/she cannot have the real experience of the item he/she is interested to buy. Also it depends on the shopper physique i.e. if he/she is fat or slim or according to his/her height, will the item will suit him/her or not.


Ubiquitous Computing is the new technology era which is exploring different ways to allow smart devices to function without user effort and awareness. Ubiquitous systems are designed to availabe and accessible from anywhere. By combining different devices devices with Ubiquitous Computing for shopping defines a new way of doing shopping standard and offers Smart Environment which allows users to shop intelligently and intuitively and provide a seamless shopping experience without any hard effort.

3.1 Design Requirements

In order to deploy Ubiquitous Computing Application to make a Smart Shopping Environment. The system need to have the following requirement as shown in the Table 1.

Application Requirements

Design Principles


The application should provide an easy interface

The learning time of the interface should be minimum



The application identify the identity of the user


The application identifies and display message when the product have special offer


The application identify the current location of the user so as to provide additional information around the surrounding


The application identifies the actual contents of the user shopping cart


The application identify the user action related to specific event (e.g. the user is a vegetarian)

Automated Capture and Access

The application reminds the user for the shopping list and logs the items purchase by the user

The application should provide privacy mechanism

Table 1 Design requirements for the Ubiquitous computing application for making a Smart Shopping Environment.

Source (

3.1.1 Interfaces – Haptic Inteface

There are basically two types of interfaces in Ubiquitous computing i.e. Haptic Interface and Multimodel Interface. In most Ubicom applications Haptic Interface is used, Multimodel Interface is complex and there is still ongoing research and development work going with it.

Haptic Interface defines the user interface to the devices that enables touch-based interaction with the digital environments. It has two major components i.e. tactile and kinaesthetic. Tactile sensing is used to stimulate the outer surface of the user body while the Kinaesthetic is used for the movement and position awareness. Haptic Interface allows the force feedback controls, which is used in the gaming industry so as to provide a virtual interface to the user. Figure3 define the overall working flow of Haptic Interface.

Fig. 3: Haptic interface information flow[x1]

The interface should be designed in such a way that it should natural and real to the user and learning time is as much less as possible so that user can use it easily.

3.1.2 Context Awareness

Context Awareness is basically used to get details of the user and its surrounding, As showing in figure4 that it is based on the user actions like who, what, where, when, why. All these kind of action are detected from devices e.g. sensors, tags, detectors etc.

If we take the apply the context awareness in the case of shopping mall environment then we need to have the following conditions i.e. The application in the mall must identify the user so as to provide personalized services. It should identify the user location so that it can give information about the items placed at that location. Also it should identify to items the user is putting in his shopping basket and also identify the actual contents to user shopping cart.

3.1.3 Automated Capture and Access

The application must contain a database of the actions performed by the user and keep track of all the information and record their routine activity. Also the application needs to be designed on which a user can trust and provide his/her details which remain private from other users.

We will now discuss some of the Ubiquitous computing devices and applications which are user in supermarkets and shopping mall as required according to the conditions and scenario.

4 PAM (Pervasive Activity Manager)

4.1 Introduction

PAM (Pervasive Activity Manager) is a device that is used for the interaction between the user and the smart e-commerce environment. PAM design is based on the p-commerce system architecture which consists on e-commerce servers and sensors place in the store. The overall idea of p-commerce is that users are allowed to shop from anywhere at anytime and get the best decision efficiently. PAM works as a bridging device between the physical and virtual shopping and is designed to work in a Ubiquitous environment. It automatically collects the data from the sensors, manages user context and connect to the servers on the internet, getting updated information and then executes user decisions. PAM is user-centric i.e. It always try to find the best end results to the user for the product the user specifically looking for.

4.2 System Architecture

Figure 4

In Figure4 the basic PAM architecture is shown. There are four main components which are described below.

Context Manager (CM)

The context manger manages the user context such as the location of the user at which store, the time he/she spent there and the history of it, the user’s personal information. Devices like sensors and readers are used to detect the user’s presence and user can interact by using the interface in the PAM so as to interact with the system.

Object Manager (OM)

The Object Manager is used to manage the product lists. When the user wants to get some information about some product for e.g. reviews about it and its versions and price, The OM get this the information from the user and then connects to the e-commerce server, The e-commerce server can get the updated information from the Internet if not it’s not found on the server. When it gets the information about it then OM will filter out according to the user requirement and then will save that into its database. After that the best possible results will be shown to the user.

Profile Manager (PM)

The Profile Manager is used to maintain user’s personal information. It also maintains the user customized setting as well which are saved by the PAM user. PAM has ability to check the context history of the user and notify user to update the settings automatically which make PAM intelligent and user friendly.

Service Manager (SM)

Service Manager is the main core component of PAM. It generates recommendations in PAM to assist user to get best possible result and cover all the main parameters such as cost, range, price, availability etc. which help them to make the best decision.

4.3 Example Scenario

Figure 5 P-Mall Architecture

We will take an example scenario to define the PAM for a p-commerce system. Figure 5 shows the architecture of a P-Mall environment in which we have many smart store in the mall and there is a main server i.e. P-Mall Server. Each store uses some sensors and have database to store the information about the merchandise they have and all uses the RFID tags for each merchandise price, information, category etc. All the stores are connected to a P-Mall Server and sent their information to it. The P-Mall Server know the location of each store, they range of merchandise they have and the current activities ongoing with them. Shoppers use PAM to interact with sensors and the server to get the information.

The shopper went to the P-Mall and when he enters the sensor detect the shopper presence and start to interact with his/her PAM and tell him about any special event offer available.

The shopper uses the PAM to find video games, The PAM interacts with the P-Mall Server and give him the information to go to store A. The shopper went to store A. and find many video games and started to see different available games. The PAM notices that the shopper is more interested in adventure games as the shopper is holding it more than 30 seconds. The PAM RFID tag of it and it connects to the P-Mall Server which provides more updated information about it from the internet and deliver back to the shopper PAM. The shopper wants to see some screenshots and demo clip of the game. The PAM displays the screen shots and stream the demo clip as PAM has already downloaded the information before. Finally the shopper decided to buy it and he pay for it from the e-account stored on PAM and email is also sent about the game and all other information about it.

5 Cisco Virtual Shopping

5.1 Introduction

Recently Cisco has introduced a very new way of doing shopping they call it Virtual Shopping using Borderless networking. They have used very intelligent devices for it which combines virtual and augmented reality together. Borderless networking can be defined as seamless network connectivity without any boundary and user to connect to a service from anywhere at anytime in a secure way and get high end result in terms of performance.

5.2 System Architecture

Figure System Architecture of Borderless Network

Figure shows the basic architecture of borderless network. There are three main components of the architecture i.e. End User Services, Network Services and Network Systems.

5.2.1 End User Services:

It provides services to end users to the devices they interact with in a secure, reliable and seamless way. The user only interacts with the interface without any need of technical knowledge which provides ease of flexibility.

5.2.1 Network Services:

It provides the essential network services which are described below

Mobility: to deliver seamless wireless access and also provides detection, location, classification of the wireless interfaces.

Energy Management: To manage and control the requirement of energy needed by device and reduce the cost.

Security: to provide high level security and define policies for each individual.

Application Performance: To provide better speed and increased availability of the application for better usage.

Multimedia Optimization: optimized the performance of multimedia devices to enhance the user experience.

5.2.1 Network Systems:

It provides the main backend services from the servers such as cloud service, web service.

5.3 Example Scenario:

As you can see in the figure that there is girl which is standing in front of a mirror, That is not an ordinary mirror it is a kind of a magic mirror and many Ubicomp devices (readers, sensors, detectors etc.) are integrated inside it. Now it first analysis the object standing in front of it and scans its body physique. After that it shows a variety of items available in the store. The user only need to just move his/her hand in the air without even touching the screen and then he/she can pick the desired dress and can see how its going to looked on him/her. He can even choose different colors, designs and other accessories with it. Once the user has decided then he/she only needs to tell the store sales person and then the sales person only need to attach the RFID Tag with the RFID Reader to make its payment confirm and then easily delivered to the user without any problem. Cisco has used Borderless networking with it which is still very new much ongoing work is still going on it and they will publically introduced it on 17 March 2011 during an exhibition.

5 iGrocer

5.1 Introduction

iGrocer is a mobile application which is designed for the new generation smart mobile phones. It has a smart grocery shopping assistant which is based on the user’s nutrition’s profile which is very helpful for elderly persons which aid and advice them on what products they need to buy according to their nutrition criteria and price constraints. The product suggestions made by iGrocer is based according to the user health profile and custom information. iGrocer is based on the client-proxy server architecture and uses wireless networking to send wireless data packets to the network server to get back the information.

iGrocer has some very important features such as Nutrition Profile which allows user to choose items according to his/her medical conditions.

Nutrition Profile: iGrocer allows user to choose items according to his/her medical conditions as shown in figure.

Figure Nutrition Profile Manager

Wish List: iGrocer has a wish list feature which can be used children to buy items they want to. iGrocer recognizes it and then provide better nutritions for the children and check the best available price for it. This feature is useful to educate children about the nutrition facts and to make healthy choices for them.

Add by Recepie: iGrocer has the feature to select items according to the recepie defined by user so as to save time and organized the user shopping needs. Figure shows the selection of items by recepie.

Figure Selecting items by recipe

This not only saves time but also help user to by items with unnecessary calories.

Personalize Categories: iGrocer gives the ability to customize the product list based on user shopping habits as shown in figure.

Figure personalizing the categories

iGrocer also provide a number of additional features such as smart shopping list i.e. manages the shopping list and in finding and providing the best available products according to the shopping list. It also has a map which is used to find the nearest store or product from the user current location. It has the service of automated checkout which allows elderly person to not wait in queue.

5.2 System Architecture

Figure System Architecture

Figure shows the system architecture of iGrocer. It has basically the client-proxy server architecure with the proxy/host server that handles all the communications. The user creates his/her profile from the iGrocer website or directly from the phone client which is sent to the proxy server and it save the information in the database such as profile, item lists, history and expenses etc. When the user login to the iGrocer it connects to the proxy server and get the updated information from the database. The proxy server query the nutrition database via Web Service and get the information about product and nutrition in it and give the end result to the user according to the user health profile and price constraints.



MyGrocer is an innovative information system which uses wireless technologies (e.g. WLAN, Wifi, Bluetooth) and automatic product identification (e.g. RFID tags) which aimed to enhance the experience of the shopper in a supermarket. The shopping cart is equipped with a Tablet device which scans the RFID tags of the products. MyGrocer functionality can be described into three scenarios i.e. in-store scenario, on-the-move scenario and smart-home scenario. Here we will discuss about the in-store-scenario.

In Store Scenario

When the customer enters into the store he/she logs in to the MyGrocer through the shopping cart. Once the user is logged in, the system identifies the user and provides him the services and display the shopping list to the shopping cart’s display screen. The customer selects products from the list and it into the cart. The RFID reader in the shopping cart scans the tag and get the price and other information about it and periodically update user shopping list. During the check-out the shopping cart sent the billing information to cashier and payment is done without have to wait in the queue.

System Architecture

Figure System Architecture

Figure shows the overall system architecture of MyGrocer.

The retailer backend system is connected to the Application Server. The application server is used to provide access service to the carts which includes user sessions, location tracking, caching etc. The Application Server is connected to the Content Transformation Server (CTS). There is a firewall placed between the Application Server and the CTS to provide security and use the SOAP Web Service which send and receive in XML format which is both secure and fast. CTS then convert the data in from XML to HTML format and sent it to the front end servers (Web Server, WAP Gateway).

The home pc users connect to the web server using the internet while the smart shopping cart uses wireless network technology to connect to the web server. The mobile (on-the-way clients) users use the WAP Gateway (for transmission of the content in WML-enabled wireless devices).


In this paper, we study about the ubiquitous computing and he we can use it in a shopping mall. Although we see that this can bring a lot of ease to the users who are shopping in a mall or at a supermarket, But there are still some limitations in this technology due to which it is not very common everywhere. One of the key issues is the privacy and protection of the user information. As we see that the intelligent devices are used in this technology that need user data and information and many users don’t like share their personal information in public and if they got the user information then what are the guarantees that data will not be publically accessible. Also devices are costly used in this technology and performance vary as their cost vary due to which on many situations this technology are not used even they are a perfect solution for a very busy shopping market.

Future Work

Currently many researchers were working in this field to make it available to everyone. Also many computer research companies for e.g. PARC is working on the privacy and protection of the user data to make it secure by using strong encryption algorithm so as not allowing user data to be accessed publically[1]. Also companies like Hp and Phidgets Inc. providing devices such as RFID Tags and other intelligent devices which are easier to program and use in a real time environment which are commercially available [2].



[1] PARC

[2] Phidgets, Inc. April. 2006.

[3] Cisco Systems Inc., Borderless Network Experience, March 17, 2011

[1]. Mark Weiser. “The world is not a desktop”. Interactions; January 1994; pp. 7-8. Mark Weiser. Ubiquitous Computing Home Page (Xerox PARC)

[2]. Dellarocas, C.; The Impact of Online Opinion Forums on Competition and Marketing Strategies, MIT Sloan School of Management Working Paper, [email protected]

[3]. Jasminko, Novak.; Ubiquitous Computing and Socially-Aware Consumer-

Support Systems in the Augmented Supermarket, Fraunnhofer IMK.MARS, Schloss Birlinghoven, D-53754 Sankt Augustin, Germany, [email protected]

Kwei-Jay Lin, Tao Yu and Chia-Yen Shih.; The Design of A Personal and Intelligent Pervasive-Commerce System Architecture, Department of EECS, University of California, Irvin, Irvine, CA 92697-2625, USA klin,tyu1,[email protected]