Walmart filed a patent for a system that would allow it to track an individual household's use of consumer products, detect when supplies run low and automatically ship a replenishment—in essence, an automated Amazon Dash button.
The patent was first reported by CB Insights, which noted that the product replenishment application is the first Walmart patent application that it has found to refer to the internet of things, or IoT.
Amazon Dash buttons were launched in March 2015. While the company is relatively stingy with specifics about usage, it has called the growth of adoption "exponential." In October, it noted for some items from brands including Hefty, Peet's Coffee and Arm & Hammer, the majority of Amazon orders are coming via Dash. Last month, Amazon said Dash orders were being made at a pace of four per minute.
The growing list of items that can be ordered via Dash includes everything from crackers to condoms, but still it's not surprising that the button is not going to be used for a majority of purchases.
Nevertheless, replenishment systems clearly are in line with evolving consumer expectations. "Connected devices are enabling 'always-on' behavior among shoppers," said eMarketer analyst Patricia Orsini in her recent report on ecommerce in the grocery sector.