CBInsights has found an interesting patent application by Walmart.
“Walmart’s IoT Patent Application Takes Aim At Amazon Dash”:
Using our patents search engine, we have unearthed a newly published Walmart patent application (originally filed in October 2016) for an IoT platform to track the way products are used in shoppers’ homes. The system places automatic re-orders when the product is used up or needs to be replaced.
From the patent application:
The present concepts relate generally to a retail subscription model, and more specifically, to the use of an Internet of Things (IoT) environment for determining wehre a consumer product requiring replenishment, replacement or upgrade may be automatically delivered to the consumer, or where new or additional consumer goods may be recommended.
We’ve analyzed the 800+ published patents and applications Wal-Mart has made over the past few years […] the majority of Walmart’s patents deal with in-store or e-commerce operations; this is among the first to branch into shoppers’ homes. […]
CBInsights describes this as Walmart’s version of the Dash button, but if one looks closer its not hard to see that this is pretty much another version of Amazon’s Dash Replenishment Service (DRS), the integration of automatic refill orders into products:
Walmart aims to integrate IoT into the products themselves for automatic re-ordering with no user input at all. […]
This patent application, titled “Retail subscription in internet of things environment,” describes adding IoT tags to products based on Bluetooth, radio frequency, infrared, NFC, or other technology. The tag would monitor product usage, and automatically order refills/replacements when needed. The tags could also track expiration dates and product recalls. […]
The patent mentions that these tags could track how frequently the product is used, at what times of day, and where it’s kept in the house.
The patent application goes further than what Amazon’s DRS does today. But, in contrast to Walmart, Amazon already has such a service on the market. (And extending the underlying technologies and use cases is far easier than establishing such a service in the first place. Not to say that DRS is established by any measure. Amazon is just much further along than Walmart.)
Here are the brands DRS is advertising with:
Interestingly, a startup seems to be involved with Walmart’s own DRS like system, hinting at a not so far off programme / partnership / first iteration of the concept at Walmart coming down the line:
One of the inventors listed on the patent, Shekar Natarajan, is also an advisory board member for smart kitchen startup Innit (according to his LinkedIn). Innit has raised $43M from undisclosed investors to create a connected kitchen platform.
On the other hand, filed in October 2016 means that this is without much doubt a pre-Marc Lore initiative, which doesn’t really increase its odds of coming to market soon.
Also, the Dash Button and DRS both only work in the context of Amazon Prime. Walmart killed ShippingPass at the start of the year and thus has nothing right now that could eventually become its Prime acquivalent. For (semi-)automatically reordering worn-out sneakers one doesn’t need Prime, but the real DRS money will be in small and smallish consumer packaged goods. (Just look at the Dash button’s brand partners.)
I wouldn’t hold my breath yet, is what I’m saying.
We have written a lot about the Dash Replenishment Service and its implications:
- Amazon’s Alexa and Dash Replenishment Service – A Level of Convenience Unseen Before
- Screenless E-Commerce: Amazon Dash Replenishment Service starts rolling out
- “To Make Shopping Disappear”: More Brands Get 50+% of Amazon Orders Through Dash Buttons
- Amazon Builds the Best System for Re-Ordering Consumables With Virtual Dash Buttons
- The Subscription E-Commerce Market in the U.S. and Its Service Component
- Amazon’s SVP for Devices and Services Candidly Talks About Amazon’s Devices Strategy
- Data from Dash Buttons Will Lead to Evolution of Brands & Amazon’s Private Labels
- Why Amazon can Establish new Platforms Like the Dash Button Easier Than Others
- Here Is What a Big Part of Amazon’s Endgame Looks Like
- Walmart Still Doesn’t Understand Amazon Prime, Kills ShippingPass Without Substitute