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Start-up offers frozen-pea-finding app

Now grocery shoppers don't have to ask surly shelf-stacking yoof

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Aisle 411 plans to take mobile navigation down to the floor plan level, guiding shoppers around American supermarkets even if the supermarket doesn’t want to play.

The application should be in the iTunes store today, Apple’s approval process permitting, and will respond to a spoken search with a map of the store in which one is standing, indicating where the selected goods can be found and perhaps a special offer or two to help pay for the whole process.

The voice recognition is licensed from Nuance, but the search is tailored to the store and the kind of thing a beleaguered shopper will want to know. Ask for "frozen peas" and you'll be shown a map showing the rough location of the frozen peas, ask for nine-inch nails and the result of your search will depend on the kind of shop you're in - though initially it will be the hammered-in variety as supermarkets and hardware stores are the focus for the company.

Once you've found your product you can scan the bar code to see reviews (scraped from Amazon), and maybe pick up a token or two as an advertising opportunity. Non-iPhone users can get access to a web version, with suitably-restricted functionality, but an Android version is promised for next year.

Aisle 411 gets its data from the stores, some of which are working with the company (such as the "Shop 'n Save" chain), and some for which the company simply obtained for floor plans - "They don't make it obvious, but the information is all there," Aisle 411 assured us.

That covers the large-scale data, and Aisle 411 isn't going to try to map every end-of-aisle offer. But it does reckon it can provide a useful search more than 80 per cent of the time. When the search is wrong, or inaccurate, then the user is invited to correct the data and is rewarded for their diligence with suitably intangible benefits.

Such benefits can also be gained by visiting a store more than any other user (becoming "Captain", so as not to impose on FourSquare's Mayoral status), and by activating bonus tokens through the use of special (and secret) search terms. The latter can lead to tangible rewards too, depending on what the advertiser of the day is offering.

Two years in the making, and still burning though $2.1m in Angel cash, Aisle 411's success will ultimately come down to the quality of the data, how often the stores change their layouts, and how many shoppers will reach for their phone rather than interact with the surly youth stacking shelves. ®

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