As Australians begin to face the reality of celebrating Christmas with coronavirus restrictions, one supermarket is introducing a more reliable way to help stores stick to social distancing.
Woolworths has been manually counting shopper numbers since social distancing was introduced earlier in the year but in the lead up to the busy holiday period, the supermarket giant will be trialling new technology that it says will free up staff to help with customer service and help keep COVID regulations in place.
Small 3D cameras will be placed at store entry and exit points to automatically count the number of people in the store at any one time.
“If the number of customers hits the store’s limit, our team will be notified in an app and implement queuing, just as they do with manual counts now,” a Woolworths spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia.
Woolworths said the new cameras won’t interfere with shoppers in any way but it will help staff spend more time on customer service.
“There will be no change for customers in their shopping experience, but it will free up time for our team members to focus on front of house service in our peak period,” a Woolworths spokesperson said.
The cameras will operate by converting people entering and exiting the store into blurred “blobs” for the purposes of counting and to protect customer’s privacy.
Individual people can’t be identified in the vision and the footage will be stored on hardware in each location for a limited period of time.
Woolworths said the footage is used solely for counting customer numbers.
Woolworths has introduced a number of initiatives to help keep customers and staff safe during COVID-19, including the Q-Tracker which allows shoppers to “book in” their visit to avoid crowds.
“The safety of our team and customers is our top priority and we’re determined to ensure it’s a COVIDsafe Christmas at Woolworths this year,” Woolworths said.
Woolworths will trial the technology in 10 Melbourne stores in the coming weeks and currently has the technology in a Melbourne Distribution Centre.
Customer limits vary store by store.
Customers can check if a queue has been implemented at their local store by checking the Q-Tracker tool.
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