Who says waiting for the subway has to be idle time? Rather then fiddling with your smart phone with that glazed look in your eye, why not use it to get some grocery shopping done?

South Korean supermarket chain Home Plus has developed a trial run of a virtual grocery store that allows commuters to restock their kitchens on their way to work.


Home Plus plastered subway stations with replicas of groceries that are labeled with a unique code for each product. As they pass by on their way to work, commuters can use a mobile-phone app to snap photos of desired products, then check out. Groceries are then delivered to their doorstep by the end of the work day.


Home Plus reported a 130 percent increase in online sales. With more than 10,000 customers, this virtual grocery store has been a huge hit.

Home Plus's virtual supermarket works like this: Each grocery item image is accompanied by a quick response b code (photo above) that encodes data, the product and its price. Items go into an online shopping cart when each code is scanned and then customers then use their phones to purchase items before catching the train to work. During the day, the orders are filled by Home Plus employees at one of their retail locations and delivered once the subway shoppers return home from work.

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"For sure, your cell phone will be the graphical user interface to the shopping services," Abel Sanchez, research lead at MIT's Intelligent Engineering Systems Laboratory, told TechnologyReview. "Think of the early days of the Web versus today. In the early 1990s, the Web was one way, like a paper book. Today, the Web is full of interaction; it's how we do our jobs. I think the supermarket will go through a similar transformation."