H-E-B Assistant




School Projects


November 2017

A cart distribution system and costumer experience platform.

During Semana i -an academic program for learning through professional experiences at Tecnológico de Monterrey- we had the opportunity to apply Design Thinking methodologies for H-E-B, a well-known supermarket chain on southern United States and northern Mexico.

We designed an economically viable solution aimed to reduce the bottlenecks and unnecessary waiting times people spend while making lines to pay for their products.

We realized that not only could we reduce waitings times significantly, but also improve the costumer experience while doing so; these were two requirements we gathered from the initial briefing and later through immersive observation and interview sessions while visiting several stores.

Our design tackled the problem through the creation of these two integrated solutions:

1: Lets make smart carts out of dumb carts.

Carts could be used to improve customer's experience, give relevant information to costumers and provide the store with valuable data for metrics and insights.

We designed a conceptual prototype for a rugged, simple, and relatively inexpensive attachable computer module with an e-ink touchscreen display, Wi-Fi and BT antennas. A lithium rechargeable battery and a solar panel charging circuit made the module self-sustainable and low maintenance.

This device would attach to existing shopping carts, essentially transforming a dumb cart into a smart shopping cart that could process, send and/or receive data, such as its location. The cart now became an open platform to create different experiences for costumers while shopping. With this in mind, we created mockups for different applications:

  1. A simple turn-by-turn navigation app to help the costumer find products and zones within the store.
  2. An advertising platform that could show relevant ads, recipes and tips to the costumer based on its trajectory and current location.
  3. Simple games for kids in the child's seat to play with (the module can pivot towards the child).
  4. A combined service that automatically assigned a cashier to the costumer, based on an Intelligent Queuing System, the second part of our solution.

There would also be several module variants integrated with dictation capabilities and special adapters to be attached to current assistive vehicles for customers with different disabilities or impairments.

You can experience the system mockup yourself at Marvel:

2: Smarter Queues.

The last part of our solution is an intelligent cart distribution system based on image recognition and machine learning software running from a computer system within the store. This computer would also manage and push content to every module attached to the carts through its own closed WLAN.

An array of wide-angle cameras located on top of the cash register area would feed data to a trained algorithm capable of identifying how many carts where waiting in line, how full each of them were and how full was the incoming cart. The algorithm would then give each cart and cash register a different score and compared them to determine the efficiency of the system.

Using a custom efficiency algorithm, the system could determine the line with the least waiting time for the incoming cart, and showed the ideal cash register number to the appropriate costumer on its attached module.

This system aimed to reduce waiting lines and ultimately improve costumer satisfaction. Our solution efficiently distributes every shopping cart to an appropriate cash register line and provides the costumer with a useful and lightweight interactive experience.

We won first place for the Checkout category.
Credits: Ángel López, Carlos Sánchez, Diego Espinosa, Axel Suárez, Antonio Tarín.

All product names, logos, and brands are property of their respective owners. All company, product and service names used in this project are for identification purposes only.

H-E-B, HEB, HEB Grocery Stores, and the H-E-B logo are registered trademarks of HEB Grocery Company, LP, Supermercados Internacionales H-E-B, S.A. de C.V in the United States, Mexico and/or other countries.

Antonio Tarín Contreras is the owner and/or the licensee of all intellectual property rights in this project, and in the material published for it. All materials contained in this project are protected by copyright laws, and may not be reproduced, republished, distributed, transmitted, displayed, broadcast or otherwise exploited in any manner without the express prior written permission of Antonio Tarín Contreras, You may download material (one copy per page) from this Website for your personal, academic, and non-commercial use only, without altering or removing any trademark, copyright or other notice from such material.