Pervasive Shopping Workshop
“Shop / I don’t need help, I’m just browsing!”

Abstract. This paper introduces the 2009 workshop titled “Pervasive Shopping: Shop / I don’t need help, I’m just browsing!” Technologies bring to the world of shopping many possibilities to leverage the control of expenses, awareness of products and the shopping experience.

Keywords: convenience store, mobile application, pervasive, pervasive computing, pervasive shopping, retail, shopping, social networking, technology, ubiquitous computing

1. Introduction

The subtitle “Shop / I don’t need help, I’m just browsing!” came to mind as a pun, suggesting the world of online computing and the interaction many of us experienced while shopping — especially when a zealous salesperson approaches with a large smile, saying loudly “What can I help you with today?”
The one-day workshop is meant as an investigation of pervasive shopping practices — taking into account both the consumers’ and business owners’ points of view — that involve physical and digital experiences. Participants will investigate an illustrative retail type, the chain convenience store, and explore the potentials of pervasive technology in this particular context. The objective is to rethink the convenience store shopping experience, taking into account the social, cultural and business contexts, and to offer strategies using or developing innovative technologies that enable business growth opportunities.

1.1 Background
Throughout the history of retail business, new types of merchandise have lead to new styles of shopping. At the end of the 19th century, the department store was invented to boost consumption of the increasing variety of goods in the emerging downtown of the modern city. Integrated in the urban dwelling environment, the convenience store made its appearance in the 1960s along with the wide spread of the metropolitan network. After the mid-’80s, Internet shopping was born and radically altered the landscape of commerce: the large-scale database of merchandise facilitated massive sales verification in real time and introducing new behaviors [2, 3]. Shopping became not just merely an activity of selling and buying, but an important component of contemporary life style that we can call an urban entertainment [4]. The concept of pervasive computing has leveraged innovative potentials in commerce by offering immersive experience of consumption in both virtual and physical situations [1].

2. The Workshop Plan

This workshop will strive to leverage the potential of pervasive technologies not just within the store, but also beyond it, taking into account the infrastructural context and engaging the business model. As a case study, we will explore Japanese convenience stores. What kinds of interactions and experiences do shoppers need when buying items in convenience stores? How is that informative to business owners?

2.1. Objectives
The objectives of the workshop are threefold:

  • Investigate the shopping experience as it applies to convenience stores.
  • Inspire and engage the community of pervasive computing to rethink the shopping experience in the social, cultural and business contexts.
  • Introduce an ethno-anthropological process to observe and analyze the current situation and offer strategies for developing innovative technologies that enable business growth opportunities.

2.2 Case study: The Convenience Store
We chose the convenience store as a case study to explore the potential of pervasive shopping by considering the unique localization of such stores in Japan, where the workshop will be held. First, Japanese convenience stores have actively adapted technologies for improving the sales mechanism as well as providing new types of services. Currently, diverse business partnerships enable innovative retail activities in the convenience store such as paying bills by RFID-embedded mobile phones and checking one’s health through on-line networks. Second, Japanese convenience stores were established in dense neighbourhoods, whereas those in America were spread along highways together with gas stations. The Japanese stores’ intimate connection to local communities and the distribution system in the urban context offers a universal platform of retail service in the contemporary life. Those two aspects provide a feasible yet provocative baseline from which we can examine the pervasive technologies in shopping through the workshop.
Participants will investigate convenience stores located around the Nara railway station. In a first phase of the workshop organizers will introduce: (1) the retail business; (2) adaptable technologies; and (3) the social and local context of Japanese convenience stores. In a second phase, participants will conduct a structured fieldwork in selected convenience stores. In a third phase, we will collectively analyze the data gathered in light of everyone’s expertise and formulate conclusions.

2.3 Outcomes

Organizers will package the workshop’s results into a report that will be widely distributed through online channels. The material collected and the papers of all participants will become part of the report. The workshop’s website address is

3. Workshop Participants

The Pervasive Shopping Team has invited researchers to participate to the discussion. Researchers from different backgrounds — social science, engineering and interactive design — have brought to the table their reflections about shopping. We realized through the variety of themes addressed that shopping, from the consumer side, is an essential activity involving deep emotions, social networking, economics, and at a larger scale, addresses global concerns — shipping food and items has an environmental impact that consumers are not always aware of. On the business side, chain stores have set “voluntary CO2 reduction targets” and partnered with technology companies to expand sales.

We chose projects and position papers that considered both consumer and business perspectives. Contributions dealt with (in broad terms) “control,” “awareness” and “experience.” The methodologies varied from a sociological perspective and light informal consumer research to more complete qualitative studies and user testing.

The “Concrete Budgeting” project by Katherine Krumme describes an online and mobile tool designed for budgeting, controlling expenses and limiting financial risks (a opportune topic at this time of financial crisis).

Mauro Cherubini, Rodrigo de Oliveira and Nuria Oliver presented “Uncertainties in a Mobile and Social Context,” a qualitative user study conducted for Telephonica Research involving 77 consumers, that supports the design of a mobile application for shopping.

The “This or That (ToT)” project by David Boardman, Federico Casalegno, Brian McMurray and Steve Pomeroy from the MIT Mobile Experience Laboratory is a nice follow-up to the Telephonica study. The project combines popular technologies, the iPhone and a Facebook application. It leverages social behavior to support commerce.

In Hiroshi Tamura’s study, “A Cameo in Her Grocery Shopping,” he embedded a context-awareness system in shopping carts that were tested in-situ. It suggests that through a better understanding of consumers’ needs (for example, there are three phases to the shopping experience) there are actual implications within real-world pervasive commerce applications.

The “Meet the Food You Eat” project by Adam Little, Eilidh Dickson and Siddharth Muthyala involves a truly innovative, practical and timely use of RFID tagging. The project is a nicely crafted interactive measuring scale that reads RFID tags on food items and indicates their environmental friendliness in terms of carbon emissions.

The project of Masayuki Iwai, Masafumi Mori, and Yoshito Tobe “Urban Wellness Sensing,” has two components. The first is a walking stick for the blind that senses street surface conditions; the second is Monolog, a system that provides product information to in-store customers based on the items impaired shoppers tend to choose. This presents two very interesting concepts particularly relevant in the context of ambient assisted living.

Laura Forlano, Ph.D., inquires about the secret live of objects in her project. Inspired by a novel by the Japanese author Haruki Muramaki, After Dark, Forlano suggests that pervasive technologies might introduce a new type of conversation with products, technologies and objects.

The “Media Show-Display: Sweet Glass” design concept by Soo-ho Cho and Hyun-joo Kong is meant to enrich consumers’ experience while maximizing the sales of different stores within shopping malls.

All these projects and reflections will be tested in light of convenience store shopping (What is convenience? How different are the spaces of convenience shops?) and challenged during the pervasive shopping workshop in Nara. The goal is to provide researchers, technology developers and businesses with a comprehensive look into the world of convenience shopping and the business possibilities brought about by pervasive computing. The report that we will put together as a result of the workshop is meant as an open proposal to conduct studies for businesses eager to thrive and innovate and involving experts interested in the topic.


1. Konomi, S., Roussos, G.: Ubiquitous Computing in the Real World: Lessons Learnt from Large Scale RFID Deployments. In: Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, vol. 11, no. 7, pp 507-521, Springer, London (2007)
2. Koolhaas, R., Chung, C.J., Inaba, J., Leong, S.T.: Harvard Design School Guide to Shopping, Project on the City Series. Taschen: Koln, Harvard Design School: Cambridge, MA (2001)
3. Robert, G., Baker V.: Dynamic Trip Modelling: from Shopping Centres to the Internet. Springer
4. Satterthwaite, A.: Going Shopping — Consumer Choices and Community Consequences. Yale University Press, New Haven and London (2001)
5. Convenience stores on Wikipedia,

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