5 Retail Tech Solutions Keeping Shoppers Safe During Covid-19

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This post is the latest in our “Commerce and Coronavirus” series. It will be an editorial focus for the month of April, and you can see the rest of the series here.

The threat of coronavirus is changing the way retailers handle in-store traffic, with many stores limiting the number of shoppers who can be inside at any one time. With social distancing guidelines constantly in flux, retailers are turning to location technology and machine learning to help make shopping safer for both customers and employees.

Beacons, sensors, security cameras, and touchless payment solutions are all being used in ways they haven’t been before. Technology vendors are even changing up their offerings, or in some cases pivoting altogether, to better serve the retail market during this ongoing pandemic.

Here are five examples of technology providers offering innovative solutions for enhanced social distancing and improved shopper safety during the Covid-19 outbreak.

1. QueVision: Using sensors to limit in-store traffic
Kroger made headlines recently when the supermarket giant announced that it would be using QueVision technology on a system to limit in-store traffic. Kroger is now limiting the number of shoppers inside its stores to just 50% of capacity. Rather than relying on employees to manually count how many people have entered and exited, the company is leveraging QueVision’s location technology to automatically count customers and speed up checkout lines. QueVision uses infrared sensors and predictive analytics as it monitors customer flows.

2. Indyme – Alerting shoppers when they’re too close together
The shopper engagement firm Indyme is working on a device meant to heighten real-time awareness of social distancing inside retail stores. That device, called SmartDome, looks just like a dome security camera. However, SmartDome actually tracks shoppers’ locations and announces a message when it detects too many people in a monitored area. Indyme says its solution is rapidly deployable, and it is designed to be used in busy food, drug, and home improvement stores.

3. Simbe Robotics – Auditing inventory with computer vision
Humans are vulnerable; robots are not. An autonomous shelf-scanning robot called Tally is being used at places like Schnucks Markets and Giant Eagle stores to audit inventory through the help of cameras, computer vision, and machine learning. Tally can identify prices, product placement, and availability. It can also identify out-of-stock or misplaced items. Having a robot handling these tasks keeps workers out of store aisles and makes it easier for supermarkets to maintain social distancing measures.

4. Walmart Pay – Encouraging touchless payments
With cashiers becoming frontline workers during this pandemic, stores are looking for ways to minimize contact during the checkout process. Walmart has come up with a number of ways to improve contactless checkouts. For in-store shoppers, specifically, the retailer is encouraging the use of its touchless Walmart Pay app in self-checkout lines. Shoppers who’ve downloaded the Walmart Pay app can scan a QR code that’s synced with the app to make contactless purchases. This is a recent change, since shoppers paying through the app previously had to touch a screen during self-checkout to complete their transactions.

5. Pathr– Leveraging spatial intelligence to reconfigure spaces
Pathr has adapted to the current crisis and found a way to use its platform for increased retail safety. Pathr’s spatial intelligence platform leverages machine learning and data analytics to collect knowledge about how consumers move through stores. Its new product, SocialDistance.ai, leverages the company’s existing technology to help operators of large spaces understand how diseases could spread in specific scenarios. The company says it’s been in touch with retailers and mall owners about using SocialDistance.ai to reconfigure spaces to make them more conducive to social distancing.

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.Rainbow over Montclair

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.