Grocery Store Scanner

Dr. Mark Sivak

Professor, Interdisciplinary Experience Design

321 Ryder Hall

Northeastern University

Boston, MA 02115


Dear Dr. Sivak

We are happy to report the final results of the major design assignment, Super Market modifications for Wheelchair Accessibility, and our creation of the design of the inTouch Shopping Assistant. This assignment focused upon the problem of creating a modification to present day super markets that will make them more accessible to those in wheelchairs without compromising their use by the rest of the fully mobile population.


Using research and background knowledge of what current modifications and designs implemented by supermarkets to aid the handicapped, we brainstormed a variety of ideas for our design. We took into account the problems with current designs, and what our main goals and design constraints were. We wanted our design to be very safe and easily usable by the user. After weighing our designs and goals, we decided on a scanner system design. The design would be a handheld scanner gun with a LCD touch screen that would allow the user to scan a barcode on a specific shelf, and select the product on the shelf. This would be added onto a virtual cart in real time, and allow the customer to pick up their cart at the end of their shopping experience.


Once we created the design for inTouch, we found it was the best solution out of all off our designs. Autonomy of the handicap person is one thing we kept in mind while creating our designs, We found it important to create a modification that would still allow the user privacy while shopping. Overall, we feel that the design is a successful solution to the problem, in that it both aids those who are handicapped and doesn’t get in the way of the shopping experience of the rest of the population.


We look forward to you reviewing our process and final design.


Dana Hartlein

Trevor Ruane

Dan Bartels



Major Design Project: Supermarket Modifications for Wheelchair Accessibility:

inTouch Personal Shopping Assistant

Dana Hartlein, Trevor Ruane, Dan Bartels

GE 1110, Tuesday/Friday 9:50 AM

December 9th, 2014




Our assignment was to create a modification to a supermarket that could further increase its accessibility to handicapped persons. We aimed to create a design that would allow the user to be autonomous in their shopping experience, and it was necessary for our design to be safe and easily usable by a majority of the population. With these goals in mind, and background information of present day solutions, we designed inTouch Personal Shopping Assistant.

Needs Assessment:

With the introduction of the Americans With Disabilities Act in 1990, it was mandated that all public buildings be fully accessible to those who are in wheelchairs. While this act greatly benefitted the mobility of the disabled population, those who are detained to wheelchairs still have difficulty maneuvering or completing tasks that they need to do inside these buildings, such as shopping for groceries in the supermarket. Existing designs such as handicap parking, motorized shopping carts, and personal assistants are available to those in wheelchairs to aid in their shopping experience, however many people prefer autonomy while shopping, and the independence of being able to shop on their own. A supermarket design is needed that can be fully accessible by those in wheelchairs, allow them to access all of the goods they need, and still allow the wheelchair user the independence of shopping by themselves. Motorized wheelchairs allow access around store easily, but are hard to maneuver, and it is difficult for those in regular wheelchairs to transition to motorized wheelchairs while in the store, and they may not want to change their transportation. Personal assistants can provide easy accessibility to products, but many wheelchair users may want privacy while shopping, and the independence of doing it themselves. Current shelving of products in most typical store layouts are out of reach for many detained to wheelchairs, and accessing them easily may be impossible without help. Our goal is to design modifications to supermarkets that will make them more usable by people in wheelchairs without compromising their use from the majority of people who are able to stand and walk.

Design Proposal:

The function of our design is to modify supermarkets to contain a system of scannable barcodes of products, along with handheld devices that allow those detained to wheelchairs to create a compiled list of the products they want. This system will be implemented at appropriate height on store shelving, allowing those in wheelchairs full access to un-reachable items on the specific shelf. The items will be compiled in a stockroom in the back of the store, and will be presented to the handicapped person at the end of their shopping experience. The goal of our design is to allow shoppers in wheelchairs the privacy and accessibility of a shopping experience that shoppers with full mobility receive, while not interrupting the accessibility of the supermarket by those with full use of their legs. It is important that everyone wanting to access a supermarket and to shop for groceries of their preference has equal access to do so, and is not barred from any items because of their disability. This will create a better shopping experience by the handicapped shoppers, and a greater level of equality between those disabled and those with full mobility.


This system of design has the possibility of being implemented in all typically structured supermarkets. Our proposed solution is a system containing scanning devices and screens allowing the user to scan virtual barcodes of products on a certain shelf. These barcodes will be portrayed on horizontal monitors at wheelchair level, running along at each separate shelving unit in an aisle. This will allow the user to have full access to view everything on the specific shelf. Once scanned, the user will be able to obtain information about the product using the device and add it to their virtual cart, which will be compiled of actual products in the supermarket stockroom. The user will then be able to receive and purchase their products at a service desk in the store. This design should be able to be implemented in most supermarkets with traditional horizontal shelving and wide enough aisles for wheelchairs and motorized scooter access.

Solutions such as personal assistants while shopping, extended grip arms, and online shopping exist. While these solutions increase the accessibility of handicapped persons to groceries, it does not allow them the full accessibility or privacy of the ideal shopping experience. Many wheelchair users may want to shop themselves, in privacy, without the use of another person aiding them. Additionally, extended grip devices are not always stable, and may not be able to grasp items firmly to the point of getting them into the persons cart, or may be fragile and therefore dangerous to grasp by a device. Online grocery shopping is another viable solution, however it doesn’t allow the user to see the full scope of products the store contains, detracting from the full shopping experience. The user may forget things they need by not being in the store, and additionally, online grocery shopping has fees attached for the assembly and delivery of the goods. Furthermore, drive-through grocers such as Swiss-Farms, provide for handicap accessibility. These systems operate in a way in which shoppers drive up to a window, list what they need, and get to remain in their car while an employee collects and rings up their order. While this solution works, it is not efficient for users with large amounts of products needed to be purchased, because these stores don’t offer wide varieties of products. Also, the wait time for these services is long, making it inefficient for many.  

In order to implement our design, we will need to gain technical knowledge of the mechanics behind barcode scanning, and integrating systems that will allow for the product to be scanned, read, and added to a virtual cart on real time. We will also need the knowledge of how to keep track of each of these systems in real time, and send the information to the warehouse where the stock cart is created. We will need to research the mechanics of the monitor and how to present images on a monitor which we will be using to display these barcodes, as well as how to make this monitor “human-proof” to prevent damages of every day use. The scanning device itself will contain an in-color touch screen which we will need to research the mechanics of, and how to make the touch screen only responsive to the human touch, to prevent mistakes in scanning. Most of the mechanics of this design involve signals transported from one device, through a system, to another device.


In order to meet the various deadlines throughout the project, we will be splitting up the different elements of each process to different group members. For the Problem Formulation stage, all group members will all work together in order to form our problem statement. From there, one member will be required to figure out the ergonomic constraints and considerations while the other two members will be tasked with writing up the final report for this step of the project. For the Design Analysis and Final Design stage, all group members will work on the decision matrix and final design decision together. After a final design is chosen, each member will be tasked with completing a certain aspect of the final report. One member will sketch the design by hand, one will make a CAD representation, and the final member will create a summary of how the design works and is assembled.

In order to model our project, we will need to create a prototype of the scanning device. We would also need to create a mock supermarket environment in order to see how it would work in an actual shopping scenario. To experiment with the solution further, the system would need to be implemented in an actual supermarket, even if only on a small scale at first. A few trial runs of the system would be necessary after its implementation as well. All aspects of the system would need to be tested. Everything from the scanning device usability to the actual product attainment process would need to be assessed.

In order to successfully implement an efficient solution, there is a lot of data that will need to be collected. First, the specifications of the average supermarket must be researched. Information such as shelving height, aisle width, and number of items per shelf will need to be gathered. Data about the price of the solution must also be obtained. The price of the technology used in the solution and the cost of implementing the solution are extremely important and must be gained before it can be produced and implemented successfully. Finally, information on the human aspect of the problem must be gathered. Knowledge of average wheelchair specifications and measurements are also crucial to developing an ergonomic design. It is also important to visit a grocery store to observe how different customers behave and exactly what products need to be more wheelchair accessible.

Expected Results:

The goal of our project is to increase the accessibility of supermarkets to wheelchair-bound individuals. If successful, our project idea will allow physically handicapped people who are confined to wheelchairs to shop easily for groceries. They will be able to browse the aisles of supermarkets, inspect the details of specific products, and have access to every item regardless of its physical location. Shopping will be made easy for them as no items will be completely out of their reach. Our system will also be able to help handicapped people who are not necessarily restrained to wheelchairs. Elderly people who have trouble walking and performing physical tasks can also be greatly aided by these new modifications.

There are many benefits of this project and few minor risks. The many benefits include ease of use for wheelchair-bound people and a decrease in time spent shopping by the handicapped. By making supermarkets easier to use by handicapped people, the project increases their quality of life. By decreasing the amount of time the handicapped spend in the supermarket, our project decreases crowds in supermarkets and thus increases their efficiency. The only risk of our project is its possible high cost for supermarkets to implement our idea.

Technical Information:

Recent forms of barcode scanners have been introduced to be usable by many smartphones, creating a system of codes that are able to be read on monitor, through a camera lense. Similarly, much work has been done in the invention of point and shoot barcode scanners, adding it to a registry in your scanner, in which you can purchase it at the end of your shopping experience. The linear bar code was introduced over 50 years ago, comprised of a specific symbology, or bar coding pattern. These specific patterns are encoded with information through the width of the black bars, and white spaces, which vary for each barcode. More recently has been the introduction of the handheld digital image scanner, which we plan to use and improve in our design. Using a laser diode, the scanner illuminates the barcode with a horizontal line of red light. Sensors on the scanner detect levels of reflection of the light from the dark spaces, which absorb the red light, and light spaces, which reflect the red light on the barcode, and generates a signal representing the intensity of this reflection that is converted into a digital signal. The signal is then decoded and translated into readable information according to its system.

The technology behind touch screens and the touch screen on our device must be researched as well. Our goal is to make this touch screen only responsive to the human touch, to minimize mistakes. This technology has been achieved through the use of using the finger as an electrical current in capacitive touch screens. these touch screens are comprised of grids that use a layer of capacitative material that holds an electrical charge. When touched with a finger, the screen changes the amount of charge at the point of contact, and this then relays a signal to the devices processor. This processor then relays instructions to its core programming, creating an action of the device screen. Using this technology, the user will be able to gain information about the object they scanned, and using touch technology, select if they would like to add that item to their virtual cart.

Design Goals and Ergonomic Considerations:

Our three primary goals for this design consist of ease of operation, non-interference with those not using the product, and durability of both physical and digital components. The solution we plan on creating must be easily usable by our target group, those constrained to wheelchairs. This means the design must be completely accessible to those in wheelchairs, and not require mobility of the legs, or require the person to be able to reach certain heights. It should also be easy to use by those not familiar with certain technologies. Additionally, the design cannot interfere with other shoppers with full mobility of their legs while they shop, in order to prevent unpleasurable shopping experiences for those not constrained to wheelchairs. To ensure this non-interference, the design must not be too large that it obstructs any pathways, shelving, or other supermarket components used by the fully mobile population. Durability of our product is also necessary to ensure that the design will work correctly over time, and not need to be constantly fixed, as it should not make the shopping experience of those in wheelchairs harder if the design malfunctions. The design should be able to withstand shoppers using it everyday, as a grocery store is used daily by hundreds of people. It must also be able to withstand use by other shoppers in the store, such as children or the elderly, who may misuse the product.

Additional constraints include cost, size, weight, installation ease, and safety. The design must be affordable and simple enough for supermarkets to want, and be able to, install it in their stores. It must be small enough to be able to fit into the supermarket easily, but not too small that it may be easily lost or broken. Additionally, the item must be of a weight that does not make it unwieldy by the average person, even those weaker than the normal person; the weight of any parts used by the handicapped person must be under 1.5 lbs.

Ergonomic constraints must also be taken into account for our design. Because we designing for a population without full mobility of their legs, we must create a design that is fully usable by those constrained to a wheelchair or motorized carts. The design must not require the use of the legs, or a specific height in any sense. If pictures or words are used in the the design, these must be large enough to be visible by those with impaired vision, and must be adjustable to adapt to this problem. The design must not require the full audible recognition or any at all, and must be adaptable to those with limited or no hearing capabilities. The design should not require any specialized hand eye coordination, and should require little specialized skills to be fully usable by the majority of the handicapped population. Any words or text used in our design should be capable of being understood by the majority of the literate population, and should clearly represent the action or product the word is being used for.

Parts of the design should not be harmful to the user if used in the correct way, or incorrect way. There should be no sharp or hazardous pieces involved in the design. The temperature of the design should not exceed a temperature that can burn its users. If dropped or broken, the design should not shatter or become hazardous. If electric, the design should not be prone to hazardous electric discharges, and should be water or food proof because of it’s use in an environment with abundant food and liquids.

Design Analysis:

Potential Designs

  1. Rotating shelf system – People could scroll through a vertical conveyor belt system to choose their objects similar to some vending machines. The shelves would be on a large circular track, allowing each shelf to become close to the ground, and thus within reach of disabled customers. Would be very easy to use for people with any disability, but may take away from regular shoppers’ experiences. Also could be potentially dangerous.
  2. Scanner and screen system – Use a scanner to scan price tags on shelves in order to create a virtual shopping cart of the items you want. Someone in a back stockroom will then work to retrieve the items and deliver them at checkout. It would not interfere with regular shoppers very much but could be pricey and time consuming for the items to be gathered and delivered.
  3. Robotic claw system – There would be a claw that the shopper could use to reach up and grab different items. This would allow people to retrieve their items easily and would not affect shoppers too much but could be very costly and hard to operate considering there would have to be a camera on the claw for people to see all of the items. Also could be dangerous if misused.
  4. Vending machine retrieval system – Item retrieval similar to many new vending machines. A claw on a track would be moved up and down, and side to side based on coordinate point system and then the item would be grabbed by the claw. It would then be lowered to within reach of the disabled shopper. It could be efficient, but could prevent others from enjoying their shopping experience and also would be costly to install. It could be dangerous, and could also prove to be ineffective.


Rank-Ordering Design Goals


Goals Ease of Operation Non-interference Durability Cost Safety Ease of Installation Total
Ease of Operation 1 .5 1 0 1 3.5
Non-interference 0 0 1 0 .5 1.5
Durability .5 1 1 .5 1 4
Cost 0 0 0 0 1 1
Safety 1 1 .5 1 1 4.5
Ease of Installation 0 .5 0 0 0 .5


Decision Matrix

The final design we chose was the scanner system. The main reason we chose this design was because it received the dominantly high score in our decision matrix based on our design goals. There was no other design that scored within 10% of it. However, it was also chosen for other reasons. As a group, we looked at its specific scores for each goal. It has the highest scores or our top two design goals, safety and durability, as well for our 4th ranked design goal, non-interference with other customers. On top of these observations, we also observed that it ranked second highest in all other categories. Because of its consistently high scores in important categories, as well as having the overall highest score, the scanner system is the design we have chosen for our final design.

Final Design:

Our final design will incorporate a scanner and screen system in order to make shopping for handicapped people easier while also not taking away from the experience of other shoppers. This design will involve a wand/remote type of device. This device will fit comfortably in your hand with a scanner at the top and a touch screen where your thumb will rest. When a person is interested in scanning an item, they will simply scan the QR code on the shelf column in front of them by pressing down on the button placed strategically where their forefinger rests (this can also be done by an accompanying iphone app for people who have iphones). This code will then lead to a screen on the remote with different items in each column of the shelf they just chose. To swipe between items a customer will simply swipe up or down on the touch screen. When they have chosen the item, the customer will click it on their touch screen to choose the quantity of the item. Next the item will go into a person’s virtual shopping cart where it will instruct workers in a back stockroom to retrieve the items for you. When the sensor senses you have entered a checkout aisle, it sends information of the aisle to the people in the back stockroom who will then bring the bag to the customer.


Patent Search:

During the search for related patents, several were found that could relate to the problem. One was a patent for a “MOBILE BARCODE SCANNER GUN SYSTEM WITH MOBILE TABLET DEVICE HAVING A MOBILE POS AND ENTERPRISE RESOURCE PLANNING APPLICATION FOR CUSTOMER CHECKOUT/ORDER FULFILLMENT AND REAL TIME IN STORE INVENTORY MANAGEMENT FOR RETAIL ESTABLISHMENT”. This patent was for a product much similar to ours, but which served a different purpose. It is therefore pertinent because it is a design which could be modified in order to solve our problem. Other pertinent patents included one for “METHOD OF ADJUSTING POINTING DIRECTIONS OF MULTIPLE CAMERAS IN BARCODE SCANNER” and one for “SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR COMPENSATING FOR MOTION RELATIVE TO A BARCODE”. Both of these patents involve technology that will most likely be required for our solution, so it is necessary that we are aware of them.

Market Research:

The only actual existing product that is similar to our proposed solution is the Tablet Gun by Retail Technologies Corporation. The Tablet Gun is a rotating tablet with a 2-D barcode and magnetic strip reader. It is on a “pistol grip”. While this existing product is very similar to our idea, it has some key differences. The Tablet Gun is primarily used as a POS, or Point-of-Sale, device. In other words, the tablet gun is mobile cash register. This is very different from our idea of a mobile scanner that builds a “virtual cart”. It is not used for checkout, which must be completed at an actual register. Instead of using the mobile scanner as a register, it will be improved to have access to specific databases of products based on scanned barcodes on specific shelves.


In order to make our product, we would need to produce the case for the “gun” and the touch screen. These parts would require ABS plastic and Gorilla Glass respectively in order to be produced. A gram of ABS plastic cost about $0.0012 on average. We would need about 5 grams of ABS plastic to produce the exterior and button for each product. This brings the cost of the ABS plastic to about $0.006 per “gun”. The average Gorilla Glass display cost about $3 to manufacture. Since ours is slightly larger than most displayed and curved, ours would most likely end up costing about $5. Therefore, in order to produce each “gun”, the cost would wind up being about $5.006 per product of these materials.

Most wireless barcode scanners cost about $600 on average. With the introduction of a touch screen, we can safely assume each unit would cost  no less than this amount. We predict each store would require no less than 15 units in order to make sure handicapped customers do not have to wait for a unit. This means the system would cost each store around $9,000 for the scanner units. The full price of implementation for each store would be slightly higher than this, however, as the stores must also create a database of their products and each shelf in the store, as well as pay employees to work in the storeroom.

As far as manufacturing concerns are concerned, there a very few with the inTouch Shopping Assistant. The product uses existing scanning and touch screen technology, which will save on production costs. However, the time of production and overall cost of production could still pose problems as the product must be made to a very high quality. As it will see frequent use, the product cannot be of poor quality or it will break after too short of a period. Also, there will be a need for a custom plastic shell and curved touchscreen to fit the user-friendly shape of the design. This can add to the overall cost of production.


Throughout this project, it was important to keep in mind the important final goals for our design. Even though we examined many different possible solutions to our problem, in the end the scanning gun was the best fit for the important factors in our design. Our team originally set out to create a modification so that everyone could experience shopping independently at their own pace. In modern society, it is important for everyone to feel equal no matter what their physical situation may be. Both handicapped people and nonhandicapped people have a right to privacy and their own personal shopping experience.

This project taught our team a lot about working together and the design process as a whole. What the group may expect to end up with at the beginning is often different in the end. The project also taught us a lot about staying on task and working within time constraints. While cost was not a real concern throughout this project, in an actual design situation we would have to be more conscious of the cost of materials and things and I am sure during real implementation changes would have to be made to the product that were not necessarily planned for. As an engineer and a designer it is imperative that one stays open minded throughout the process and is prepared to adjust their ideas to fit reality.

Finally, with a successful completed design, we feel that our project has been a complete success. Handicap people everywhere would be able to shop with our device and would never need to feel uncomfortable in a grocery store again.

Project Log:

11/6/2014 Dan Bartels Project Proposal 2:00 PM 4:30 PM 2.50 Total Hours Worked:40
11/6/2014 Dana Hartlein Project Proposal 2:00 PM 4:30 PM 2.50
11/6/2014 Trevor Ruane Project Proposal 2:00 PM 4:30 PM 2.50
11/6/2014 Dana Hartlein Project Proposal 6:30 PM 10:30 PM 4.00
11/6/2014 Trevor Ruane Project Proposal 7:00 PM 11:00 PM 4.00
11/7/2014 Trevor Ruane Project Proposal 1:00 AM 2:00 AM 1.00
11/7/2014 Dan Bartels Project Proposal 5:00 AM 6:00 AM 1.00
11/11/2014 Trevor Ruane Design Goals 2:00 PM 3:30 PM 1.50
11/11/2014 Dana Hartlein Design Goals 2:00 PM 3:30 PM 1.50
11/11/2014 Dan Bartels Problem Formulation 2:00 PM 3:30 PM 1.50
11/19/2014 Dana Hartlein Design Analysis 7:00 PM 22:00:00 3.00
11/19/2014 Trevor Ruane Design Analysis 7:00 PM 21:00:00 2.00
11/19/2014 Dan Bartels Design Analysis 7:00 PM 9:00 PM 2.00
11/29/2014 Dana Hartlein Presentation 5:00 PM 7:00 PM 2.00
11/30/2014 Trevor Ruane Presentation 3:00 PM 16:00:00 1.00
12/1/2014 Dana Hartlein Presentation 9:00 PM 11:00 PM 2.00
12/1/2014 Trevor Ruane Presentation 9:00 PM 11:00 PM 2.00
12/1/2014 Dan Bartels Presentation 9:00 PM 11:00 PM 2.00
12/3/2014 Dana Hartlein Final Report 12:00 PM 1:00 PM 1.00
12/8/2014 Trevor Ruane Final Report 6:30 PM 7:30 PM 1.00
12/8/2014 Dan Bartels Final Report 11:15 PM 12:15 AM 1.00



Jerry Swartz et. al. (2012) Bar code scanning. Scholarpedia, 7(9):12215., revision #127557


Kato, H., Tan, K. T., and Chai, D., Barcodes for Mobile Devices. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.


Wilson, Tracy V., et al.  “How the iPhone Works”  20 June 2007.







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