Feeds

IBM solves world's 'paper or plastic' crisis

Patent may save seconds, lives

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Since the dawn of history, mankind has been plagued by an unnecessary burden whilst grocery shopping at their neighborhood supermarket: telling the cashier whether they prefer a paper or plastic bag.

Precious moments are squandered. Moments better spent reading the collected works of Spinoza, curing cancer, building shelters for the homeless, or leveling Night Elf druids in World of Warcraft.

IBM may have discovered a solution to this most grievous of conditions with a US patent approved only yesterday. Let bells ring and the annals of history show that August 5, 2008 was a great day indeed.

Patent 7,407,089 (available here) is a method and system for identifying a customer and displaying whether they like paper or plastic bags without the need for uncomfortable questioning.

From the patent's description:

"However, at conventional retail locations, the customer is likely to be asked for their packaging preference each time the customer passes through a cashier station, resulting in unnecessary inconvenience for both the customer and the cashier.

What is needed is a more flexible system and method for determining packaging preference that overcomes some of these limitations. "

Welcome to the stage of history

Shhh! No more words, only knowledge

According to our admittedly rough calculations, implementation of the system could have a major impact on the grocery business.

Consider: If a customer is standing 3 feet away from the cashier, it would take approximately 0.002665 for the words "paper or plastic?" to reach him at the speed of sound. Factor in a generous one second pause to process the question, it would take roughly 1.0053317 seconds for the full round trip conversation.

But using IBM's technology and assuming the cashier is standing about 1 foot away from her register, it would take a mere 0.000000001016703 seconds for the information to reach her at the speed of light. (Dear pedantic readers: yes, this model takes place in a vacuum. And you know what? I'm not even sorry.)

The point is that about 1.00533169999 seconds are saved per transaction. This could be further improved if IBM were to develop a speedier way for the cashier to communicate the information to the bagger. We're thinking some sort of neural link between all grocery store employees.

Oh, and maybe a death ray for all those charity solicitors standing outside the store. Might as well reach for the stars here. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Sysadmin Day 2014: Quick, there's still time to get the beers in
He walked over the broken glass, killed the thugs... and er... reconnected the cables*
Auntie remains MYSTIFIED by that weekend BBC iPlayer and website outage
Still doing 'forensics' on the caching layer – Beeb digi wonk
Microsoft says 'weird things' can happen during Windows Server 2003 migrations
Fix coming for bug that makes Kerberos croak when you run two domain controllers
Cisco says network virtualisation won't pay off everywhere
Another sign of strain in the Borg/VMware relationship?
VVOL update: Are any vendors NOT leaping into bed with VMware?
It's not yet been released but everyone thinks it's the dog's danglies
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.