Indiana University Bloomington

USPTO Grants IP Clinic’s First Patent

First Patent, Belonging To Ryan Haugarth, Covers A System And Method For Tracking Consumer Product Interaction With Objects In A Physical Environment.

The patent for invention number US 9,514,471 B2 is for tracking consumer interactions with products in a physical environment by pairing movement of an object with a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag to a mobile device in close proximity.

Haugarth’s invention addresses a gap in current data for physical retailers trying to track the preferences and behaviors of potential, current, and former customers. Until now, the Consumer Relationship Management (CRM) industry’s data on customer behaviors in physical outlets has been largely limited to tracking purchasing history, while their data for online behaviors has evolved to be quite sophisticated. In particular, product-specific online ads are increasing online merchant influence through the use of web cookies, which track pages visited and images viewed by a single customer. (Yes, those Facebook ads are no coincidence!)haugarth

Haugarth’s system seeks to increase the extent to which the same data is available to physical retailers, utilizing RFID tags and mobile devices to track how products move in their stores. For example, this invention could tell a clothing retailer that a particular shirt has been tried on many times, but that it usually ends up back on the rack. Or it could tell a grocer that its customers tend start their shopping at the back of the store and work their way forward.

Haugarth predicts that the in-store shopping experience will change dramatically over the next decade due to retail technology. Indeed, Amazon just launched a “just walk out” concept store, “Amazon Go,” which utilizes similar sensors that link the shopper’s smartphone with items taken off the shelf. Said Haugarth,

“Different from Amazon’s approach, my invention utilizes RFID sensors to identify which items a shopper has taken into a particular zone, such as a fitting room or the exit of a store. As a result, the growing number of retailers using RFID tags on their merchandise could use this solution to provide delightful new experiences for their in-store customers, such as a ‘just walk out’ checkout process or mobile app based fitting room assistant that recommends accessories or helps customers find alternative sizes or colors and order online with a single click.”

In an ever-competitive consumer marketplace, smart advertising and customer behavior data are important tools for the modern merchant.