Amazon Dash lets you scan barcodes to reorder items

Amazon has unveiled Dash, a home barcode scanner that aims to make online shopping easier.

The hand-held, wand-shaped remote control features a microphone and speaker, alongside a barcode reader that links directly to the user’s AmazonFresh account, enabling users to add groceries and other household products to their shopping lists.

The idea behind the device is that when you run out of an item, you use Dash to scan the barcode on the packaging to reorder it. For food items without a barcode – apples, for instance – you order via the microphone, with Amazon claiming “it’s voice search that actually works”.

The device doesn’t automatically order any items; you still need to log in to your account online or via an app to finalise the purchase.

Amazon said 500,000 items are already available, and most can be delivered the next day. It’s unclear why Amazon believes a dedicated device is necessary, when standard smartphones can already scan barcodes.

The company has released a video that shows Dash in action:

Amazon Dash is currently available on a limited trial to users of AmazonFresh, which at the moment operates exclusively in Southern California, San Francisco and Seattle. The device is free during the trial period, according to the product’s website, but is available by invitation only.

The online retailer has been steadily expanding into electronics manufacturing, starting with the Kindle ebook reader launched in 2007, and the Fire TV-streaming set-top box announced last week, as it seeks new ways to energise a gradually slowing core retail business.

Amazon’s “Fresh” online grocery business targets one of the largest retail sectors yet to be upended by online commerce. The company has plans to launch AmazonFresh in roughly 20 urban areas in 2014, including some outside the United States. A UK launch hasn’t yet been announced.

A successful foray into groceries could also help underwrite the development of a broad-based delivery service employing Amazon trucks to deliver directly to homes, which could have implications for UPS, FedEx and other package delivery companies that currently ship Amazon goods.

Amazon was unavailable for comment regarding the public availability of the device.

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