Hey Alexa, sort my grocery list by supermarket aisle.

For Christmas, I received not one, but two, Amazon echo dots. I received one from my boss, Jon Pittman, and another from my teammate, Lucas Prokopiak. Each knew that this would be the perfect gift for me. Jon's gift was accompanied by the book, SPIN SUCKS, and Lucas used Autodesk Fusion 360 to design and create a personalized holder.


For the uninitiated, an Amazon echo dot is a voice-activated assistant. In many cases, it's like using a search engine without the typing. Anything you can find by using a search engine, you can get using an Amazon echo dot. The default name for the device is Alexa, so once you hook it up to your wireless network, it listens for voice commands when it hears its name. You simply say things like:

  • Alexa, play Todd Rundgren from Spotify.
  • Alexa, what's my sports update?
  • Alexa, let's play Jeopardy.
  • Alexa, what is the capital of Angola?

Alexa responds in a pleasant voice. In addition to retrieving information and playing games, Alexa will maintain a to-do list or a shopping list for you. This offers the advantage of being able to add things, hands-free, to these lists right when you think of them. For the grocery list, when I open the refrigerator and see that we are out of almond milk, I can say "Alexa, add almond milk to my grocery list." without having to grab a pencil and paper. My wife, Sheryl, made an excellent spaghetti dinner the other night, and I really liked the sauce, so I immediately asked Alexa to add it to our grocery list so we could get more of it.

When you are out buying groceries, you use the Alexa app on your smartphone to see the items that you have added to your list:

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Here is where I think an improvement can be made. I would love to be able to input to the Alexa app the layout of my grocery store and have the list sorted in the order in which I will encounter them.


At the Safeway where Sheryl and I shop, we have:

Aisle Contents
  • fresh fruits
  • fresh vegetables
  • sour cream
  • eggs
  • butter
  • cheese
  • yogurt
  • novelties
  • ice cream
  • snacks
  • desserts
  • potatoes
  • breakfast
  • pizza
  • frozen vegetables
  • frozen dinners
  • frozen entrees
  • gluten free
  • asian foods
  • hispanic foods
  • canned fruit
  • soups
  • stuffing / gravy
  • pasta
  • rice
  • packaged dinners
  • canned fish
  • condiments
  • salad dressing
  • cake mixes
  • flour
  • cooking oil
  • cooking-gadgets
  • food storage
  • cups & plates
  • greeting cards
  • magazines
  • books
  • stationery
  • candy
  • juices
  • conventional breakfast
  • tea
  • coffee
  • cereal
  • hot cereal
  • peanut butter
  • cookies
  • crackers
  • dried fruit
  • chips
  • popcorn & nuts
  • specialty beverages
  • sport drinks
  • water
  • flavored beverages
  • soft drinks
  • feminine care
  • skin care
  • bar soap
  • hair care
  • deodorant
  • shaving needs
  • dog food
  • dog supplies
  • pet supplies
  • cat litter
  • cat food
  • cat supplies
  • formula / access
  • diapers
  • paper towels
  • personal care
  • bath tissue
  • facial tissue
  • oral care
  • dish soap
  • laundry
  • light bulbs
  • cleaning supplies
  • air fresherners
  • charcoal / logs
  • chilled beverages
  • beer
  • champagne
  • spirits
  • mixers
  • wines
  • imported wines
  • premium wines
Back Wall
  • milk
  • juices
  • butcher
  • packaged meat
  • pharmacy
Right Wall
  • Starbucks
  • prepared foods
  • bakery
  • bread
  • buns
  • deli counter
  • sliced meats
  • donuts
  • bagels
  • desserts to go

This would be a really handy feature. Right now, as soon as the list gets moderately long, I have to scroll back and forth to see what items to buy. If I could input the store layout to the Alexa app once, and then have the app order the items on my list, I could shop and check them off as I encounter them. If we wanted to get really futuristic, local in-store-GPS could know what aisle I am on and my smartphone could call out "grab Orowheat whole grain bread" just before I pass it on the bread aisle. Think of it like driving directions for grocery shopping.

I am an idea guy. Michael Keaton's line of "Feed mayonnaise to tuna fish." in Night Shift resonates with me.

Dreaming about improving the shopping experience is alive in the lab.