Inspiration

Past moth- July, 2020 I had to go for monthly grocery shopping to the local supermarket. After completing the entire shopping in 20 mins. I had to stand in the billing queue for another 30 mins due to a long queue at the billing counter. The people in the checkout queue had to stand close to each other due to limited space. Also, while checkout the cashier touched my goods and we exchanged cash, which increased the risk of infection.Prior to that I had read about Amazon Go. This was when the idea to develop a low investment self-checkout application for small businesses and modern retail stores in developing countries struck me. The aim was to bring convenience of online shopping to physical stores and ensure customers' and store staff's safety.

What it does

SkipLane is a smartphone application which is connected to the Point-of-Sale system of the store and thus has access to products available there. A user can download the application, sign-up and then log-in to his/her account. The user then has to scan the barcode at the back of the product and confirm to add the product to the virtual cart as the user bags the physical product. The user can also maintain a shopping list in the app. Once the user is done with the shopping the user can checkout, by pressing the button. After this, the user can pay in-app through credit/debit cards or through digital wallets and take his goods home. The invoice is generated inside the app itself. This saves a lot of time for the user and avoids the hassle of standing in queues while also avoiding human contact and reducing the risk of COVID-19 infection.

For the retailers, SkipLane provides a lot of consumer shopping data which can be utilized to predict sales, maintain inventory, understand customer shopping behavior and promote products through in-app ads and product recommendations. The retailers can save floor space, efficiently use labour and resources and handle 3x more customers leading to a boost in revenues. The convenience, ease and satisfaction provided to customers in turn leads to increased customer loyalty. I chalked out the model for the application using an online tool. I utilied the SCRUM model for development. The application is developed using Xamarin Forms (XAML + C#). For developing the Sign-up and Log-in and for user authentication I used Google Firebase Authentication service. Then for developing the shopping list feature I used the local sqlite database. For scanning the product barcodes, I integrated the barcode scanner from Google Mobile Vision API. For retrieving product details and storing the sales data, I used the NoSql database- Google Firestore. The application has been developed, keeping in mind the best development practices, adaptive layouts and supports almost 99.9% devices.

Challenges I ran into

I ran into multiple challenges while developing this application. For the shopping list feature, I struggled with creating an instance of local sqlite database and performing CRUD operations on that instance. Then I faced a lot of difficulty in querying Firestore with the unique scanned barcode and retrieving the product details through a created model. Another issue I faced was with dynamically updating the shopping cart with scanned items or removed items and displaying the changes in the user interface. Finally when I was done with the development and tested the application on multiple screen-sizes, I noticed broken user-interface. This required me to update the entire application and implement adaptive layouts throughout the application, to ensure the best user experience.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

I am proud that I stayed up 36 hours and developed my idea into a fully-functioning application, single-handedly. I faced a lot of challenges yet I did not give up and ultimately achieved my goal.

What I learned

I learned how to use local sqlite databases and perform CRUD operations on them. The I honed my skills in handling NoSql databases and perform complex data querying and retrieval on them. I gained hands-on-experience in using services from the new Google Firebase platform. I learned how to develop adaptive layouts for Xamarin Forms applications.

What's next for SkipLane

I plan to approach modern retail store owners for running a trial of this product in their stores. After the pilot results I am planning to approach angel investors for developing this product further and build a startup around this, to further innovate in the O2O tech space.

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