When technology reaches the grassroots

Remember the salespeople-free mattress stores that opened up in the USA last year? In another similar ‘eureka’ moment, this time involving an app bringing about instant panacea, a remote coastal village in Sweden has finally got its first 24-hour convenience store. Only twist, it comes on a complete do-it-yourself basis. In the strictest sense of the word. I mean, we’re not talking about self checkout counters here. Literally the entire store is unmanned.
Bit of background. Viken is a sleepy little village on the southern coast of Sweden, where your closest neighbour is probably a 10 minute drive away. For its people, who basically live in the proverbial ‘middle of nowhere‘ where everything shuts up fairly early and the nearest busy town is a good half hour away, the level of relief the 24×7 store has brought is indescribable.
An idea that comes with clearly outlined objectives 
This is how it works. Customers are required to download and register themselves on an app that syncs up with their bank ID, pretty much routine stuff. They then use the app to let themselves into the store, pick and scan the products they want, and checkout. A monthly invoice is sent to them, to save them the hassle of paying then and there. After all, the most targeted demographic are shoppers with a late night emergency. Security is taken care of by security cameras, and a thorough verification process takes place each time a new member registers on the app.
Genius in simplicity
So simple and yet so relevant, that Robert Illijason, the man who came up with this innovation, finds it ‘incredible that it hasn’t been done before’. He has a point. By identifying a specific problem prevalent in specific locations, he might just have come up with a novel idea with the potential to be scaled up in similar rural localities. In fact, he does have something similar in mind and hopes the money he saves on staff (or the lack of) will go towards making that a reality, provided the response continues to be this overwhelming
The store only carries all the basic necessities you would expect in a typical grocery store, with further stock set to be dictated purely through local demand. At this rate though, it won’t be long before locals are getting real time product updates and other information on their app as and when the store is replenished.
Join the debate
There have been some rumblings from those who fear that this is the next step in technology making labor force obsolete, but that is a debate for another day. It might not even be a model that can be implemented globally due to safety concerns and such, at least not right away. But it certainly has made life 4000 locals for whom it is solving a serious long term grievance. And, at the end of the day, isn’t this what technology is supposed to be all about?
So what do you think? Is this simply a glorified vending machine, or an idea worth keeping an eye on? Is it somewhat limited by the fact that people who do not use smart phones cannot have access to this kind of service? Would it even work outside of places like Sweden, where the relative lack of poverty means there’s no petty crime anyway? Write to us with your thoughts at

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