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Coming soon: The Walmart Dash button?

Amazon’s signature Dash button may be getting some competition from a rival very soon.

A patent filing by Walmart reveals that the retail giant could be developing an Internet of Things-based device that tracks how shoppers use products in their homes and then electronically reorders merchandise.

The retailer’s proposed device relies on IoT tags, which could be comprised of Bluetooth, radio frequency identification (RFID), infrared, or near-field communications (NFC), among other technology options. Besides monitoring product usage, this smart tag would be programmed to automatically re-order merchandise, as well as track expiration dates and product recalls, according to the patent filing, called “Retail subscription in Internet of Things environment.”

Walmart’s approach is to put a “modern spin” on subscription services. “Previous generations enjoyed some subscription services, such as the daily receipt of fresh milk from a local farm by a mailman,” the patent reported. “Modern subscription services include the use of computers and the Internet, where a consumer can order online a subscription of goods ranging from wine to razors to the book-of-the-month, which may be shipped from the factory to the consumer’s home.”

The technology would directly compete with Amazon’s vast portfolio of Dash buttons. The Wi-Fi connected devices, which are dedicated to a specific brand, enable Prime members to stock up on merchandise from the brand simply by pushing the button. Product is automatically re-ordered from, and shipped free with Prime shipping. The online retailer currently features a fleet of more than 300 branded buttons, according to the online giant.

Unlike Amazon’s trademark Dash button however, Walmart’s smart device won't require shoppers to push a button to initiate their re-orders. Specifically, the retailer’s proposed device will “associate a tag with items, [be] a tracking device for collecting data on the tags associated with the items, and a management system that monitors changes in the use of items, including analyzing use patterns to determine when items should be replenished, replaced or upgraded.”

Walmart filed the patent on October 19, 2016, but there are no details on when the device will be available.

This is also not Walmart’s first patent filing. The retailer was recently granted a patent that would allow the chain to use drones to shuttle merchandise between departments and dedicated delivery locations within its stores.
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