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One of the most promising next-generation retail technology is smart shelves. Smart shelves, which are also known as “intelligent shelves”, are electronically connected shelves which are designed to automatically keep track of inventory in any retail establishment. Manufactures can collect real-time data about their products usage and get sales data. Smart shelves use a combination of sensors, digital displays and RFID tags to provide detailed product information, marketing and cross-selling suggestions, while providing retailers invaluable insights into customer preferences and shopping patterns.

Absence of stock items in retail stores resulting in causing dissatisfaction among the customers is one of the biggest challenges the retail industry is currently facing. Smart shelves technology enables automated tracking of stock availability and informs retail stores if the items are running low or if they have been misplaced from the original place. Smart shelves can be connected to the internet and in turn, offer helpful data about customer practices and relevant information about how to optimize their in-store experience dynamically.

Benefits Of Smart Shelves To Retailers:
  • Smart Shelves allow retailers to make more informed decisions about stocking and inventory, notify the back-end system about the existing quantity of items on the shelves, alert when product levels are running low or when a theft is detected, and when items are misplaced.
  • There’s no need to order and perform a physical count in warehouse or storeroom; the shelf, or network of shelves, can communicate product inventory data as it changes to store owners, managers, associates, buyers, warehouse workers or manufacturers respectively.
  • Provides access to the store or shelf information remotely, enables visibility of stock position, cross and up-selling of products.
  • Minimizes out-of-stock situations and lost sales opportunities.
Benefits Of Smart Shelves To Customers:
  • Identify nearby store locations
  • Enhance the shopping experience by providing detailed product information such as product origin, reviews, and promotional offers
  • Enable analysis of product popularity by product reviews
  • Enrich the consumer experience by suggesting best ways to engage with the products
  • Drive brand loyalty
Benefits Of Smart Shelves To Manufacturers:
  • Help manufacturers in branding their products
  • Enable manufacturers to reward shopper loyalty
How It Works

Smart Shelves allow retailers and manufacturers use real-time inventory data to optimize stock availability. Retailers can focus on providing customer-centric retail space to enhance customers in-store shopping experience. Manufacturers get closer to customers by gaining more visibility, thus enabling branding.

The store shelves are equipped with weight sensors, proximity sensors, 3D cameras, microphones, RFID tags, NFC, electronic printed tags, LED sensors, optical sensors, IOT sensors, etc., to monitor the shelf stock. When the customer picks an item from the shelf, product levels get low, Smart Shelves send a refill notification to employees/ store keepers on their connected mobile device. The stock is replenished by the store keepers.

New Technologies/ Innovations

ELECTRONIC SHELF LABELS (ESLs): This is a next-generation solution available for managing the retail stores. It displays information in real time using electronic/digital paper and display instead of printing product information and price on paper. A communication network allows the price display to be manually controlled or automatically updated at the business’ discretion. The wireless communication is based on infrared, radio or even visible light. The QR code which is presented on the electronic shelf labels connects the offline products with the online products. Combined with the shelf management solution, stores could execute promotions in a timely manner and have more interactions with customers.

PERSONALIZED ADVERTISEMENTS: Smart shelves have the ability to interact with apps on a customer’s smartphone. Sensors installed in the shelves can sense the customers approach them and can they can show a deal, for example, on the same product that was purchased during the previous visit. Additionally, if the customer uses a store’s app to create a shopping list, the smart shelves can interact with the list and show the customer where to find the items in the shelves. Although there are privacy and data collection concerns, it is expected that some consumers will share their personal information and purchase history to score a deal. Smart cameras can capture and identify customers’ gender and age within any pre-defined ranges. The system also records facial expressions, giving retailers a sense of customers’ moods as they watch ads, providing clues about which products they like or don’t like. Smart shelf technology uses beacons which are proximity-based communication devices that use low-energy Bluetooth technology to send personalized messages and promotions to shoppers’ smartphones.

IOT SENSORS: The Internet of things (IoT) is a network of connected devices embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and so on which enable these objects to collect and exchange data. Internet of things (IoT) sensors have many potentials uses in a supermarket, and one of the most basic is temperature control. The internet of things can also collect data from smart shelves and transmit the collected information to store staff for analysis. This technology can help supermarkets to assess which products appeal to consumers and can affect how stores arrange items on display. Using IoT technology, digital screens can display not only commercials and catalogs but also personalized promotions based on collected data.

5G TECHNOLOGY: 5G is the next (and fifth) generation of wireless technology systems. Shelves equipped with sensors could stock position of a product, ping a distribution center to restock its inventory, and also dynamically monitor the progress of that shipment. 5G also has the potential to create entirely new types of shopping experiences such as an augmented reality application that triggers when you enter a store and guides you directly to the shelf where you can find your product of interest.

RFID: A radio frequency identification reader (RFID) usually has a tag that contains a microchip, reader and antenna to transmit and receive data. The tags contain electronically-stored information. RFID tags uses smart barcodes and radio waves to identify items and transmit information about them. RFID enabled smart shelves have recently attracted enormous attention. RFID-enabled smart shelves ensure product placement in desired locations and enable data collection and delivery along the supply chain without human intervention. RFID tags can provide alerts to store associates whenever the shelves are empty and need restocking. RFID tags on every item combined with robotic checkouts can automatically scan your purchases and make shopping faster.

PRESSURE SENSOR FOILS: Pressure sensor foil that detects the changing of objects on a shelf could be used for a range of applications in retail, hotels and hospitals. Integrated into the sensor foil are active components, which include a multiplexer chip and a capacitive-to-digital converter, along with a number of passive components such as resistors and capacitors.

Recent Patent Applications

WO2017183038A1 filed by Wishelf Ltd. discloses a shelf monitor comprising an array of sensors deployed in proximity to a stocking shelf and so that the sensors face a region containing shelved goods. A CPU module is configured to receive outputs from the sensors and execute an algorithm to detect a change event in the shelved goods and to train the detection algorithm. Shelf monitors can be used in multiple numbers; a master shelf among the shelf monitors serves to aggregate the data and local control of the system. A master controller can establish communication with a cloud server, allowing many additional features such as integrating the shelf monitoring system with inventory and point-of-sale database.


US10121121B1 titled Smart shelves from Amazon Technologies Inc. discloses tracking an inventory of items stored on a traditional shelf, including not only identifying the items but also determining their locations on the shelf, based on their respective weights. Interposer assemblies may be inserted between a traditional shelf and traditional supports for the shelf. Each of the interposer assemblies may be configured to generate signals corresponding to changes in loading on the traditional shelf, and information regarding the changes may be determined to identify items placed onto or removed from the traditional shelf, and locations at which the items were placed or from which the items were removed.


US patent application US20170228686A1 from International Business Machines (IBM) has disclosed smart shelves having a mesh arrangement of sensors that include strain sensors, photodetectors, microphones, and spillage sensors placed on a bottom to form a sensor mesh layer for generating a signal representative of a product count for a given product to be sold from a corresponding smart shelf. The system further includes a data processing system for transforming the signal from each of the smart shelves into a product count value. The system also includes a set of video displays for displaying characteristics of the given product to be sold from each of the smart shelves. The system additionally includes a set of wireless radios for transmitting the characteristics of the given product to be sold from each of the smart shelves to the set of video displays.


US20180231973A1 from Walmart deals with systems and methods for a Virtual Reality Showroom with Autonomous Storage and Retrieval. It discloses how robots in a remote fulfilment facility would monitor consumers’ movements. As shoppers add virtual items to their virtual baskets, the self-driving robots would locate those items in the real warehouse, pick them up using an articulated arm and deposit them into a container for shipping. These fulfilment centers would also utilize smart shelves to monitor inventory in real time.

Start-Up Activity

WISESHELF: WiseShelf founded in 2016, offers a cutting-edge technology “smart shelf” which prevents “out of stock” situations by alerting when the stock gets low.


  • Real time alerts related to out of stock, helps detect the location of products on the shelf to avoid bad positioning
  • Visual planogram presentation of the LED lights on the shelf
  • The WiseShelf system provides analytics and business insights from the data collected on the shelves, and also provides stock demand forecasting and facing compliance
  • The system keeps the suppliers updated about the status of the products which are relevant to them, helps to replenish the stock of products that have high demand

TECH SHELF: Tech Shelf founded in 2017 uses modules and sensors to track every item on the shelf, offering the collected data in real-time to retailers, producers or distributors.


  • Reduce out of stocks and increase sales, real-time inventory management
  • Increase customer loyalty
  • The real-time data from the store shelves helps take informed decisions, understand sales performance of every product
  • Optimize employee productivity
Companies/Universities Engaged In Research

KROGER CO, America’s largest supermarket chain, has implemented Kroger EDGE, a cloud-based signage solution for retail shelves. EDGE stands for Enhanced Display for Grocery Environment. It relies on Microsoft Azure to store and process volumes of data generated by customer actions on and around the shelves.

Features of EDGE shelves:

  • Shelves have real-time connectivity by using an integrated Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and ZigBee
  • Shelf stability obtained by holding goods up to 500 lbs.
  • EDGE Cloud Portal displays pricing, ads, messages and product info displayed on EDGE shelves

AWM SMART SHELFis an innovative smart shelf technology. AWM’s Automated Inventory Intelligence solution can view and track virtually any product or UPC in a retail environment. It is highly accurate, and results can be provided as quickly as near-real-time and as frequently as hourly or even less in response to shopper activity.

Features of AWM Smart Shelf:

  • Utilizes computer vision with machine learning to anonymously capture a wide range of data on shoppers without requiring them to manually provide any data. In addition to reporting and analytics, it enables triggering of content based on demographic criteria like age, gender, and ethnicity.
  • Shopping platform utilizes advanced computer vision and artificial intelligence (AI) to detect what products shoppers are removing from shelves and which items are added to their cart for automatic billing to their digital wallet.
  • Automated inventory intelligence by utilizing super-wide-angle low light HD cameras
  • LED Fascia allows prices, promotions and advertisement to be displayed or modified easily
  • The AWM Product Mapper provides brands and retailers with capabilities such as creation of planograms for retail space planning and optimal product positioning for maximizing sales.

WISESHELF transforms standard retail shelves into IoT world. Wiseshelf is an appliance mounted on existing retail shelves that provides real-time information regarding the stock level of each product. WiseShelf developed a unique patented technology to detect and manage shelf inventory.

Features of Wiseshelf:

  • A cloud based system that utilizes machine learning techniques to analyze the data stream from the shelves
  • Unique multi-sensor appliance, detects the number of products it carries and sends data to a cloud based patented algorithm
  • Smart friendly app that provides both real time status information and analysis data
  • A row of colorful LED lights on the front of the shelf creates a visual on-shelf presentation

POWERSHELF is a leading provider of retail technology solutions. The Powershelf system provides constant power and two-way communications to software-enabled applications and devices which deliver a variety of advertising, merchandising and pricing services to customers.

Features of Powershelf:

  • Combining low-power, battery-free hardware with real-time digital analytics
  • Powershelf SRLs (Smart Retail Labels) include integrated low-energy Bluetooth beacons and radio frequency identification (RFID) technology

IMCo is a manufacturer of innovative intelligent retail shelf solutions that helps to sell more. IMCo is one of the leading producers of intelligent systems that stop theft while maintaining an open shopper-friendly presentation. The patented IMCo Smart Shelf exists as a product pusher based system, IMCo Push, as well as for retail hooks, IMCo Hook.

Features of Smart Shelf:

  • IMCo Hook Pro is an intelligent peg hook that registers product removals with a muted beep and sets off an alarm when potential theft occurs.
  • IMCo Push functions as a smart pusher system working according to the very same principle. If offenders are effectively unsettled, they will most likely stop the act and leave the store.
  • The Powershelf was co-developed by Compass Marketing’s Tagnetics subsidiary, and by Panasonic System Communications Co., which is also manufacturing, marketing and branding the product.
  • Intel, through its partnership with AVA Retail, is committed to sustaining growth in retail. AVA Retail’s SmartShelf system, built on powerful end-to-end Intel architecture using Intel RealSense cameras and sensors, transforms stores from static merchandise showrooms into responsive and highly engaging arena. The system also provides valuable, real-time analytics that enhance engagement and drive higher sales.
  • Kroger Co. and Microsoft Corp. are joining forces to bring the ease of online shopping to “digital shelves”. Kroger plans to commercialize its futuristic shopping experience could provide a lift to Microsoft’s Azure cloud business.
  • Cloverleaf’s shelfPoint, a retail solution, partnered with Affectiva Emotion AI developer to give dynamic shelf solution with built-in emotional artificial intelligence (Emotion AI) capabilities. Procter & Gamble has tested the technology dubbed shelfPoint while Dell is currently using it in a Micro Center store in Houston, Texas.
  • T-shelf, the smart shelf system developed by T+ink and Intel, can now unlock the power of live inventory management, understand product velocity.
  • Trax and Nielsen announced joint-solution known as Shelf Intelligence Suite in 2017, which digitizes the shelf to continuously measure, optimize and activate store strategy. The collaboration provides two core solutions such as Shelf Pulse & Shelf Blueprint. With Shelf Pulse, FMCG companies are provided with ongoing digitized measurement of in-store shelving conditions for their brands and competitors, shelf compliance vs plan and visual proof for store activation. Shelf Blueprint, on the other hand, helps FMCG manufacturers set the best strategy for store merchandising (facings, adjacencies, shelf placement, flow, etc.) by means of predictive analytics.
  • InnovationLab and Pure Value are collaboratively working on integrating InnovationLab’s printed pressure sensitive foils into Proteus Smart Display & smart shelves in the retail industry.

Smart Shelves is an emerging technology that is rapidly being adopted by manufacturers, retailers and consumers. Integrating IoT software solutions will accelerate development of Smart Shelves technology and enable implementation at supermarkets or retail stores. Digital transformation is reshaping the retail industry with new technology trends such as Omnichannel, Internet of things, Virtual & augmented reality, Artificial intelligence and Hyper-personalization. In future, retail stores are expected to integrate several product sensing devices which are more intelligent than ever before such as the RFID tags, 3D cameras, LED displays, stock management applications, etc. Many stores are beginning to understand the advantages that the smart shelf-management system offers. It is not only for managing purchasing histories but also measuring market trends and customer preferences. The future is going to witness a convergence of many technologies which will make retail experience a very enjoyable one for the consumer, and a profitable one for the retailer.


  1. Mean-Variance Analysis of Retailers Deploying RFID-Enabled Smart Shelves
  2. IDTechEx Release New Report – Electronic Skin Patches 2023-2033
  3. What Is 5G? Understanding The Next-Gen Wireless System Set To Enable Our Connected Future
  4. Walmart Patent Wants You To Shop At Home Using Virtual Reality
  5. Smart Shelf Technology Shapes Retailing
  6. Smart Shelves Outsmart Your Stock
  7. SAP Insights
  8. Global smart shelves market (2017 2024)- research nester
  9. A.T and BBDO Raise Food Allergy Awareness in PSA with Celebrity Chef Ming Tsai
  10. Kroger is rolling out a new technology to nearly 200 stores that could change grocery shopping as we know it
  11. Kroger’s smart shelves ditch the paper, drop the lights and delight the shoppers
  12. Kroger, Microsoft Create Futuristic Grocery Store. Amazon, Take Note
  13. Annapolis firm and Panasonic look to electronic shelf labels to revolutionize in-store shopping
  14. Shelves Are Getting Smarter


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  • We claim the right of fair use as ascertained by the author
  • Ravindranadh

    Ravindranadh currently serves as a manager at SciTech Patent Art (SPA) in Hyderabad. Ravi's academic background includes a Master's in Chemical Engineering and ongoing pursuit of a Ph.D. at NIIT, AP. He has also earned a PG Diploma in Patent Law from NALSAR University, Hyderabad. Ravi has received specialized training from a Top Fortune 50 company in patent searching, complementing Ravi's extensive hands-on experience in patent searching, analysis, and visualizations. Ravi's clientele spans various domains including Chemical Engineering, Mechanical, Electrical & Electronics, Personal & Home care, Chemistry, Consumer products, Food Technology, Biotechnology, and Biomedical Engineering.

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    P. Prema Latha, currently working as a Team Lead at Scitech Patent Art, has Bachelors degree in Electronics and Instrumentation Engineering, PG Diploma In IP Law, and an Indian Patent Agent. She has 10+ years experience in IP. She possesses expertise in various technological fields, including bio-electronic implants, wearable devices, ADAS, oral care, air conditioners, and patent filings, etc.

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