Smart Bag: Shopping with Twyst

Smart Business

Smart Bag: Shopping with Twyst

This tiny company is changing brick-and mortar retail by ending checkout lines and capturing customers’ in-store behavior with a Smart Bag .

by Marc McCoy

Imagine walking into your favorite store, getting a special offer just for you, choosing your items, and then walking out. No line, no – checkout. Just a wireless, effortless, and secure transaction that automatically charges you for the items in your bag when you leave a store. That’s the not-so-distant future of shopping, and it’s being implemented right now by innovators like Kevin Schaff founder and CEO of IoT start-up Twyst.

Here’s how it works. Upon entering, you’re greeted with a push notification on your smartphone asking if you’d like to try the Twyst Smart Bag. The bag is equipped with Bluetooth and by simply touching your phone to the bag, you’ll receive a prompt to pair the devices. Now your in-store and digital shopping experiences are linked, and all you have to do is shop. That’s how Twyst is transforming brick-and-mortar retail.

Smart Bag Twyst

No more standing in line: Thanks to Twyst, a wireless, effortless, and secure transaction that automatically charges you for the items in your bag when you leave a store.

In 2015, Schaff, drawing on his background in data analytics, had an idea – eliminate points of friction in retail, primarily the checkout line, and capture in-store behavior to turn it into actionable data. Then he met Avnet business development manager Eric Leahy and discovered the Avnet Innovation Lab located at Arizona State University.

An idea and the team to make it real

Leahy was impressed with Schaff’s ideas. Avnet’s Innovation Lab was conceived to help aspiring entrepreneurs, like Schaff, to advance their ideas and bring them to market. Through the lab, Leahy was able to connect Schaff with all the resources he needed: technical support, mentorship and design, manufacturing, and marketing expertise.

“Kevin is an amazing guy. He knew that friction within the retail space was a problem. For customers, it’s waiting in lines; for retailers, it’s trying to understand why people abandon carts. He understood the problem just not the best way to solve it,” recalls Leahy.

Schaff also knew there were already RFID (radio frequency identification) tags in most products for shipping purposes, and that he could leverage that inside a store. Twyst’s smart bag (or any other shopping container like a cart) is designed to detect an item’s presence and transmit data via a Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) network. Leahy helped Schaff choose and source the right technology – the microprocessor, RFID reader and sensors that go in the bag, and the beacons that go throughout the store – to produce and refine early prototypes.

Smart Bag – What’s next?

Now well past the design phase, Twyst is entering full-scale production and installation into its first big-box retailer. Its relationship with Avnet has transitioned over time from innovation lab participant to full-fledged customer. “Having Avnet’s help in the design phase as part of the innovation lab was highly valuable. Now I’m at a point where we’re putting a sensor platform across 300 stores in different cities. How can a startup handle those logistics? Turns out Avnet does that, too. Production, inventory, distribution, even returns. Their ability to help us rapidly scale is fueling our growth,” says Schaff.

“As an entrepreneur, you want to build maximum value before you formalize your venture capital. That’s what working with Avnet and having their help in the design phase allowed us to do. So, we get to keep more of our company – more equity. That’s every entrepreneur’s dream,” he concludes.

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