Amazon Links Your Trash Can to Your Shopping List

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An Amazon.com Inc driver stands next to an Amazon delivery truck in Los Angeles, California, U.S., May 21, 2016. Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

This article originally appeared on the Motley Fool.

Amazon has continually tried to make ordering easier, especially when it comes to household items that people generally replace after using.

The company lets people order via its Echo voice assistant, and it has hundreds of companies in its Dash replenishment program. The first iteration of that effort has been single-brand buttons that people put in the locations where they use the item. One push, and the item is reordered through Amazon. For example, a person may have a Tide Dash button near his or her washing machine and one tied to a favorite cereal in the pantry.

However, Dash is not solely linked to devices programmed by Amazon. The company has a number of APIs (essentially a piece of software allowing third parties access to the technology) that will bring Dash to a whole new range of products. At the core of all of them is the idea that it will make ordering from Amazon easier—or even automated.

Now, a number of new companies have joined Amazon's automated replenishment program. One of those new partners makes a device to attach to your trash can that, with your help, looks at what you throw away in order to reorder those items for you.

What is a smart trash can?

GeniCan, which starts at $124.99, is an add-on sensor for trash cans. The device, which ships in January, is programmable. People simply scan the bar code of any product they want added to their replenishment list. As the smart-trash-can owner throws an item away, he or she simply needs to run the bar code past the in-can scanner to have it reordered. Or, if there is no bar code, you can add an item to your list by speaking to the machine. If you merely throw the item in the trash, it won't be added to the shopping list.

Owners of GeniCan tie the device to a shopping list app in their smartphone. They can either use the list to shop for needed items themselves or place their order on Amazon for delivery. Unlike Dash buttons, which place an order when pressed (but only one until it has been delivered), the smart trash can requires that the owner choose to actually place the order.

"Dash Replenishment saves our customers even more time by automatically ordering items," said company co-founder Rob Griffin in an Amazon press release. "Now they can reorder items directly from their garbage can and recycle bin at the perfect time: the moment the item is being disposed of." 

It's not just about garbage cans

While the smart garbage can is a clever use of Dash replenishment technology, it's not the only expansion for the service. Amazon also introduced a number of others this week:

  • Honeywell-connected devices will "calculate when a new air filter is needed and automatically reorder from Amazon."
  • Nestle's BabyNes system is "Wi-Fi-enabled and syncs with a smartphone to allow parents to track a baby's nutrition or get an alert when a caregiver feeds the baby." The app allows parents to buy formula capsules based on tracked consumption.
  • WePlenish offers services using Dash that track a consumer's coffee consumption in order to reorder when supplies run low and a similar tracker for pet food.

Only some of these ideas will catch on. It's very likely that many, if not most of these products, will fail. The core idea, however, is solid: make it easy for people to get the items they use the most.

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