Lingnan University leads secondary school students in successful patent application for the development of a new generation of AI-driven ‘smart shopping cart’
30 Jan 2024
With the rapidly ageing population in Hong Kong, Lingnan Entrepreneurship Initiative (LEI) sponsored and led a student team from Pui Shing Catholic Secondary School in Tin Shui Wai to jointly develop the “smart shopping cart” to enhance the quality of life of the elderly and alleviate their burden of travelling. Combining AI technology and algorithms, the latest, third-generation “smart shopping cart” system can quickly and accurately track the user’s wristband, significantly improving the smoothness of the cart’s automatic movement in sync with the user’s walking speed, which eases walking crowded environments such as wet markets and supermarkets. The research team has successfully applied for a patent for this innovative invention in Hong Kong and is currently discussing collaboration with elderly centres to carry out trial runs of the “smart shopping cart” with the elderly.
According to the team, the first generation of the “smart shopping cart”, which used to be tracked by radio-frequency identification (RFID), could only follow closely behind the user. Although the second generation could walk in sync with the user, it couldn’t keep up during sudden turns, and required users to look back or frequently attend to the cart. The latest improved third-generation model incorporates an AI system, optimising real-time tracking capabilities. Testing has shown that it can walk completely alongside the user, allowing users to focus on the road ahead. The system also includes an “anti-lost” function, which sends out vibration alerts through the mobile phone apps when the shopping cart deviates from the user’s real-time position, as a double security measure to make travelling easier and safer for the user.
Prof Albert Ko, Director of LEI, led and promoted the project. He pointed out that the “smart shopping cart” helps address the challenges faced by elderly people living in rural areas who have to travel long distances to buy groceries and carry these heavy daily necessities back home, and as a result, are often prone to physical strain. LEI has been committed to addressing these “long-standing, big and difficult” social issues through “humanitarian technology” and developing sustainable solutions to improve the daily lives of citizens and benefit communities.
“Engineering and technology are indispensable components of Lingnan’s liberal arts education. This research project allows secondary school students to experience the integration of humanities and sciences in liberal arts education. Through humanitarian technology, students can explore and apply engineering-related knowledge. Through a series of guidance and exchanges, we enable students to master producing innovative products that effectively solve contemporary social problems, cultivating their creativity and comprehensive application skills to enhance their logical thinking abilities,” said Prof Ko. He hopes that students not only develop a strong interest in humanitarian technology but also continue to apply a multidisciplinary approach to analyse and solve problems of various scales in society.
Representatives from Pui Shing Catholic Secondary School expressed heartfelt gratitude to Lingnan University for its dedication to promoting the development of humanitarian technological products, training students’ design thinking abilities, and guiding the patent application process. Through this project, students have not only enhanced their passion for design and innovation but also had the opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge to solve real-world problems, promoting their personal growth and career planning. The successful patent application for the “smart shopping cart” is one of the fruitful outcomes of this collaborative partnership, and the school looks forward to continuing cooperation with Lingnan University to jointly cultivate more innovative and socially responsible young talents.
Since the end of 2021, LEI has provided approximately HKD 300,000 in funding for the research and development of this project at Pui Shing Catholic Secondary School, including conducting engineering-related workshops and training, creating prototypes, and assisting and guiding students in improving the next generation of “smart shopping cart.” Lingnan University has also successfully helped the team apply for a patent in Hong Kong and is currently applying for a patent in mainland China. The future plan is to promote the product in areas heavily affected by an ageing population, including Hong Kong and mainland China, to enhance the quality of life for the elderly.