Before Amazon started filling homes with grocery-ordering buttons, magic wands, and AI-enabled speakers, a company called Hiku made a device for your kitchen that quickly assembled shopping lists. Using a barcode scanner or your voice, it let you plan your next trip to the grocery store without searching for your phone or bothering with pen and paper. But a number of things about Hiku are changing today. There's new hardware, it's cheaper, and Hiku can now also use your list to place orders with Walmart's or Peapod's online grocery services.
Hiku (the company) has spent the last few years working with retailers in France, Australia, and the UK, giving Hiku (the device) the ability to shop for users based on the lists they were creating. This ability is now coming stateside thanks to integration with APIs from Walmart and Peapod, which Hiku CEO Rob Katcher says makes the smart shopping feature available in more than 40 markets across 24 states.
You can still speak or scan to add products to lists, but now you can shop
Basically, the app (iOS or Android) allows you to take any item on your list and add it to a shopping cart. Those items can then be bought directly from Walmart or Peapod, and you'll have the option to pick them up in-store or have them delivered. If you want to do it the slightly more old-fashioned way, you can still just use the Hiku device and app to generate shared shopping lists.
As looks go, the new Hiku is the spitting image of the the last one. It's still a white, hockey puck-shaped device that magnetically sticks to your fridge. It still has a barcode scanner and voice recognition, both activated by the lone, silver button. But the new one has more microphones and better audio isolation, both of which should make the Hiku more reliable according to Katcher. This version should also work much faster, too, because it no longer needs to connect to Wi-Fi before it records or scans. And lastly, the new Hiku is more kitchen-proof, with better resistance to splashes and crumbs.
Cheaper, faster, stronger
The price of the Hiku is being dropped from $79 to $49 through the rest of this year. That's not as cheap as the $5 Amazon Dash buttons, but Hiku is a more flexible device. It's not retailer-specific, so you can put anything on the list instead of just ordering more of one product. And if Walmart or Peapod don't have what you're looking for, the Hiku app can even intelligently suggest alternatives, a feature Katcher says has been carefully honed thanks to the shopping feature's existence overseas.
As for when or whether other stores are coming, Katcher says the issue is API access. "When we first started out with Hiku, we thought, 'Oh, we’ll just go to retailers and they’ll give us API access and it’ll be easy!' That was two years ago," he says. Even the biggest retailers are still figuring out if and how they want to create their own APIs — Walmart and Peapod just happened to be the first to offer up access. When the rest do, it sounds like Hiku will be ready. "We know people here in the US are multi-store shoppers, and you can always take your list with you," Katcher says.
The new Hiku is available starting today. Orders will ship on November 19th.