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Last Updated: Monday, 7 February, 2005, 12:26 GMT
Smart scanner helps elderly shop
Lady using scanner - Somerfield
The device speaks the order back to the user before it is sent
Elderly and housebound residents in Bristol are taking part in the trial of a new device which could help make their weekly grocery shop easier.

A barcode reader is used to scan items from a catalogue - or off tins - and then the order is sent to the supermarket via the phone line.

The order is then delivered to their home by police-vetted drivers.

The "Companion" is part of a project between Bristol City Council, Brunel University and Somerfield supermarket.

Computer problems

Bristol City Council found many people in the area were having difficulty with shopping but did not qualify for the council shopping services.

It approached Prof Heinz Wolff, from Brunel University in west London, to develop the product after plans to introduce internet shopping failed, because of difficulties faced by some people in using PCs.

"Shopping is only one of its functions," Prof Wolff said.

"In due course, it could be possible to order repeat prescriptions, remind people to take their medicine and allow Local Authorities or Care Agencies to monitor care packages more precisely."

About a dozen people are taking part in the trial and a Somerfield spokesman said they had received positive feedback.

Although the idea of home shopping is not new, developers say the system is different because it allows them to shop from home where previously they relied on others to do it for them.

Funding for the six-month trial scheme has come from the Bristol-based charity the Dolphin Society, and the European VIVALDI project.

The trial is due to run until July 2005.

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