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Hiku: Add it to Your Shopping Cart

Hiku scans, records, categorizes, locates, and marks your favorite items to make shopping a no-brainer. The handheld device scans bar codes on your favorite and incidental items. The item is then listed on a shopping list on your smartphone ready to take to the store.

You can assign an item to any number of user-named lists – Safeway, Petsmart, RiteAid, GNC, and so forth. Head for the store, display your shopping list on your phone and proceed down the aisles. In this review, I’ll show you with pictures how easy it was to install,  learn, and use. I’ll also tell you what I did and didn’t like about Hiku.

You’ll need either an iOS or Android smartphone to download the free Hiku app. I tested the Android version as soon as it was released. The beta packaging still only refers to the original iOS version though.

You can buy the related scanning device direct from Hiku. The same device works with both iOS 6.0+ and Android 4.0+ since it sends the scanned information to a neutral cloud. The device contains a 1D linear scanner, a microphone, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, and a rechargeable Lithium-ion battery.


Inside the box you’ll find the device, a micro USB cable for charging the battery, and a tiny three-fold 3”x3” Start Up Guide.

3-Hiku Contents

Hiku seems like an odd name for an application that creates a grocery list. When I questioned Matt Beebe, head of product and design, he explained: “The name Hiku comes from the Japanese short-form poetry, meant to be said in a single breath. When done well, a haiku communicates meaning in its simplest form, and is beautiful. That captures the ethos of our brand: to bring simplicity and beauty to people’s lives.”

The product’s instructions themselves are simplicity personified. They start by telling you to download the application from the Apple App Store < > and follow the on-screen instructions to connect Hiku to your Wi-Fi. It needs to be a 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi network. Because I was beta testing the Android version, I went instead to Google Play  for a copy of the software. The product’s documentation obviously needs to be updated to include the new version. When you search for Hiku on either site be careful of what you choose.


A search for Hiku on iTunes and Google Play displays several misleading, but interesting, choices.

One choice might include the following Haiku poem by the 17th century Japanese master Matsuo Basho: < >

A field of cotton —
as if the moon
had flowered.

Take a moment to mentally contemplate the image … Now let’s continue with our study of a more mundane topic: grocery shopping.


Installation of the Hiku app on an HTC was easy and automatic. You are asked for your Wi-Fi connection.5-Hiku-to WiFi

You are told when to sync your device to the application by placing the device on the phone’s display.

6-Hiku-on phone

Make note of the warning that accompanies the placement. It is no B.S. The bright pulsating action that takes place during the synchronization is intense.


You’ll be rewarded with a message of success that displays on the phone below the device.

8-Hiku-Set Up Complete

The process creates an icon on the phone’s home panel.


The Hiku icon appears here in the lower right corner of the phone’s display.

To sign onto Hiku, you’ll need yet another password to keep track of. They do have a way of assisting you if you forget it. After you have started a shopping list, you can share that list because it is stored in the cloud not on your phone. You could send your mate to the store and they could access the list by signing in to their own smartphone with the same email address and password you created during set up.



The device itself is made of a study, water resistant, shell designed to resist damage to both exterior and interior even when dropped. It is fitted with a magnet that attaches tightly to your refrigerator and is covered by a soft silicon rubber that keeps it from scratching the appliance. The activating button on the opposite side is of brushed aluminum. A recessed window protected with a rubber framing is what you point towards the bar code for scanning to take place. You also can set the device on this end on a flat surface.

11-Hiku-On Fridge_850

Hiku adheres securely within easy reach on the refrigerator door.

The same device can be used with either an iOS or Android phone. The downloaded app on your phone talks to the cloud to retrieve your stored information. Hiku has an established and growing data base of 17 million bar codes that it draws upon.


The same device can be used with either an iOS or Android phone.

With the oval Hiku device in hand, I began scanning a variety of items and checking how they showed up on the phone.


Most familiar items were quickly categorized by the program.

14-Hiku-Shopping List

When you select to display Details, you are able to edit the information. You can change the name in your list that was associated with the bar code, assign the item to another aisle, and enter the quantity you want to purchase. You can mark common items as “Regulars”.


I scanned a variety of shapes and conditions. Flat cardboard boxes of course do well. Yet, I had no problem with the bar codes being recognized on round cans, moist milk cartons, wrinkled labels, irregular tubes, or cellophane covered containers.


Hiku read bar codes of various and sundry shapes and conditions.

Hiku has three audible signals which translate into: It’s Added. Bar Code Not Recognized. Voice Not Recognized. One item Hiku didn’t recognize was a bottle of Port wine. I guess it doesn’t read Portuguese codes. However, referring to the paper Start Guide that came in the box, I found the solution.

17-Hiku-Scan It doc

Afer I scanned the bottle again, I immediately pushed the silver button, aimed the scanner at my mouth and said “Porto Morgado” using my best accent. Bingo. Hiku can even spell. There it was on the No Aisle category along with the Epson ink cartridge that the system didn’t know what to do with either. Hiku even spelled the brand name correctly from my verbal input.

I assigned my after dinner drink to the Beer/Wine/Liquor aisle.  Now that Hiku has my Port in its data base anyone can access the information immediately because I “taught” Hiku the bar code.

18-Hiku-Porto Morgado

Porto Morgado has been added not only to my shopping list, but to Hiku’s data base for everyone’s benefit.

Alphabetical aisles come already defined, such as Baking/Spices, Dairy, Grains/Pasta, Meats, Produce. You can add a new aisle which I could have done for the ink, but I decided School/Office Supplies would suffice. I also could create a separate Shopping List for, say, Staples, and assign the Epson ink to that list instead to my general Grocery List.

19-Hiku-Epson Ink


To get started, you can name a list, go to that store, walk the aisles scanning bar codes from your common purchases to quickly set up a thorough list in the order in which you will find them in the store.

As you learn how to use Hiku, if you can’t figure something out, you can tap My Hiku and display links to the site’s FAQ’s or send an email to For example, although Hiku has an almost flat, easy learning curve, I didn’t intuit how to remove an item completely. I could “Cross It Off” by swiping it, but to get it off that list the FAQ that displayed on my phone told me I needed to hit the Clear button. I could not locate a Clear button, so I will contact Support for a more specific direction or graphic.

The My Hiku also has Tips, which are a reiteration of the compact Start Up Guide, so help is always a tap away on your phone. It is in place to allow language selection for voice recognition with three forms of English, two forms of Spanish, German, French, and Italian. The product currently supports English only. The other choices will be an enhancement.

Finally, the company responds to problems as evidenced by this notation on their website about their first version. “We’ve identified an issue in the hiku mobile app version 1.0 where new item refresh fails for AT&T customers under certain conditions. The issue is now fixed, available in the App Store as version 1.1. You can download it.”


This compact, patent pending, shopping assistant could be called a gadget according to Merriam Webster which says: “Gadget: an often small mechanical or electronic device with a practical use but often thought of as a novelty.”

Hiku is something that is new and unusual, as well as practical. Introduced at San Francisco’s Pepcom in November, Hiku saves the user time, provides organization to an often chaotic procedure, and is easy to use. Instead of scurrying from aisle to aisle, backtracking to the canned vegetable aisle because you forgot to get lima beans when there, you can methodically move up one aisle and down the next, checking items off your list.

I did not find a way, however, to mark that I had put the item in my shopping cart. So for now, you’ll need to remember what you selected and what you still need to pick off a shelf and place in your basket. It’s time to request an enhancement.

I was told that another enhancement I wanted had been requested by other users as well: printing. If your neighbor offers to pick up a few things for you when they go to the store, you’d probably prefer to give them a printed list instead of access to your Hiku account.

This scanner is also perfect for someone who has difficulty writing, perhaps due to severe arthritis. Scanning or speech can take the place of painful attempts at maneuvering a pencil.

Hiku is priced at $79, but I think $50 would be a better price if you weren’t sure you’d really use it once you had it. Also, if you were just counting dollars, a smaller price in today’s economy might be more enticing. However, it depends on how you value your time. This device is definitely a time saver, and “time is money”.


Founders Rob Katcher, CEO, and Rajan Bala, VP Engineering, urge you to “Get the App”.

This app is a must for the busy person who has a deadline and an empty refrigerator that needs filling. No fumbling for a list, no forgetting the one special thing you went to the store for. It’s a convenience for every single mom with limited time, any bachelor who hates to shop, and every person who has a large family and a long, varied shopping list.

Hiku is seeking retail partners and developers ( to pair their product with Hiku. You should contact them on their career page if you are an experienced mobile software engineer or a data scientist looking for a job.