May 5 (UPI) -- Walmart applied for a patent that would input tiny sensors into common household products to alert the retailer when customers are about to run out, enabling it to ship replacements to customers without their having to place an order.
A patent for the invention is still pending after an application was filed in October. It was first unearthed by the consumer blog CB Insights.
The move would enable Walmart, the nation's largest brick-and-mortar retailer, to compete with online giant Amazon's Dash button, a device that enables consumers to automatically order replacements for things like soda, over-the-counter medication or toothpaste by tapping a button.
Walmart said in its filing the sensors could have other applications, such as tracking consumer data and enabling the retailer to tailor marketing plans to individual consumers.
Radio sensors in clothing could track when an article of clothing is becoming ragged and order a new one. Sensors on a gallon of milk could detect when it is approaching its expiration date and order more.
Walmart declined to comment on the application and it is common for companies to seek patents on ideas that are never developed or put into use.