ASU teams up with tech company to revolutionize the way people shop

A Bluetooth shopping bag might just await customers on their next grocery trip thanks to a collaboration between ASU and Colorado-based tech company Twyst

The Avnet Innovation Lab at ASU and Twyst, a Colorado-based technology company, collaborated to create the world’s first "smart" shopping experience. The pair has developed a product intended to simplify and expedite the retail experience.

Twyst has been a part of the Avnet Innovation Lab nearly from its inception in 2015. For the past 16 months, Twyst has been working with the Avnet Innovation Lab to develop the shopping technology of the future.

"Respectively, it's an in-store sensor platform, its really about data and analytics," Kevin Schaff, founder and CEO of Twyst, said.

The process works by putting sensors that can communicate with "smart" shopping bags in stores, Schaff said. When a customer takes something from the self and places in their bag, it creates an automatic registry of their purchases. 

"What it allows us to do is create frictionless checkout,” Schaff said.

That frictionless checkout allows the shopper to purchase everything they need and skip the hassle of waiting in line, he said.

Schaff said Twyst has developed what they call “lift and leave” technology, which enables customers to shop with a bag, basket or cart that communicates via Bluetooth low energy, power-efficient Bluetooth technology, to a tablet that each store associate is equipped with.

Customers simply push a button on their bag, basket or cart to checkout, Schaff said. An employee would then approach the customer, with their tablet displaying the contents of the bag for checkout and inventory purpose. Checkout is completed after the customer provides a quick swipe of their card, and they are on their way.

This unique system also provides data and analytics to the store itself to improve things such as dressing room wait time and the type of products in stock, Schaff said. Stores can use anonymous tracking of the bags in order to better understand how their customers shop and figure out ways to improve it.

Schaff said the Avnet Innovation Lab plays a vital role in this project. The lab is a partnership between the Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU and, the Phoenix-based technology company, Avnet. The Avnet Innovation Lab is a program developed to fund and provide resources to up-and-coming technology-based businesses across the United States.

“There’s not a better use of time or a more respective environment than what ASU and Avnet has pulled together for entrepreneurs,” Schaff said of the lab.

He said the resources the lab provides to its participants come in the form of design concepts, parts, engineering solutions, mentorship and access to dedicated lab space at the ASU Tempe campus. Schaff said that out of all the innovation labs he has participated in, ASU’s Avnet Innovation lab “was by far the most effective and impactful.”

"Avnet, they have been fantastic," said Hayden Collins, head of operations/development and design at Twyst. "They have helped us not only bring everything to fruition, but the biggest aspect is the guidance, to do things quick and to make it happen."

Collins said she has worn many hats during the project but her main role has been in design and development of the bag, the delivery and looking over the manufacturing of the product.

“Truly, we are breaking the gap between online and offline in stores,” Collins said. “The idea of that actually happening and providing convenience to customers and more knowledge for our clients is really exciting.”

Kyle Squires, dean of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, said that the partnership between ASU and Avnet “is a great example where the Fulton Schools of Engineering are partnering with a key employer in the Valley.”

Squires said Twyst is one of the core examples of the type of products being developed due to this partnership.


Reach the reporter at gabbyt98@gmail.com or follow @GabbyTortorich on Twitter.

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